I let myself fall out of touch with jazz singer Kate McGarry after having written about her Girl Talk album for Examiner.com. I was therefore curious when I learned that Binxtown Records would release her latest album, The Subject Tonight Is Love, today. However, while I was sent a physical promotional copy, as of this writing I have yet to find a site for anything other than downloads, even after having visited McGarry’s own Web page for this recording. Where downloads are concerned, it would appear that the most reliable site is Amazon.com.
While I was impressed with McGarry’s vocal work on Girl Talk, I was equally drawn to the talents of her rhythm backup, provided by Gary Versace on keyboards, Keith Ganz on guitar, and Clarence Penn on percussion. The Subject Tonight Is Love, on the other hand, is a trio album with only Versace and Ganz. Ganz moves over to drums for the final track, an arrangement by all three musicians of the Beatles standard “All You Need is Love;” and there is a “guest percussion appearance” by Obed Calvaire for the drumbeat behind “Whiskey You’re The Devil.” However, this is, for the most part, a trio album with all three players contributing equally to the arrangements.
This makes for some fascinating interplay of sonorities. While there is no question that McGarry has a solid command of pitch, she has a way of letting Sprechgesang phrasing overtake what might be called a “standard sense of tune.” Since most of the songs on the album are familiar, that approach to coloration tends to leave the listener thinking about the words in alternative contexts, often involving a twist of irony. This idea of delivering an alternative point of view often spills over into Versace’s keyboard work and or Ganz’ guitar riffs.
What most distinguishes the style on this album is its rather comfortable rhetoric of understatement. At a time when strident rhetoric coming at one from all directions seems to be the order of the day, listening to the ways in which this trio puts its own spin in the familiar is more than a little comforting. We all need a bit of refuge these days, and The Subject Tonight Is Love is the product of three skilled musicians who know how to satisfy that need.