Photo: David Bartolomi
With 6 critically acclaimed CDs and a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal CD Kate McGarry has become recognized as a jazz artist who brings authenticity and vitality to every song regardless of genre. The Wall St. Journal calls her, "Austere and elegant," New York Times pronounced her music, “astute and sensitive". She currently performs in jazz clubs, performing arts centers and festivals throughout the US and abroad. As an educator she has taught at New England Conservatory and currently serves on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music. Downbeat Magazine has cited McGarry as 'Rising Star' vocalist for the past 9 years. She has been interviewed on All Things Considered, and has performed on Jazz Set w/DeeDee Bridgwater, Piano Jazz w/Marion McPartland, and a host of nationally syndicated radio shows.
Singer Kate McGarry grew up in Hyannis, Mass., one of 10 children in a musical family that spent many nights singing together. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst she earned a degree in Afro-American Music and Jazz. Kate began developing her organic vocal style through early training in jazz performance with Dr Horace Boyer and iconic saxophonist Archie Shepp. Her experiences studying at a meditation ashram and exploring Celtic, Brazilian and Indian music also contributed to her widescreen vision as a vocalist and composer. After years honing her craft in Los Angeles, McGarry moved to New York where her independently produced (by Steven Santoro) debut album, Show Me, was picked up by Palmetto Records. Jazziz Magazine declared, “With this near-flawless album, she has arrived.”
In 2005 McGarry’s Mercy Streets album – which ranged from the Peter Gabriel title track to songs by Björk, Joni Mitchell and Irving Berlin – was called “one of the most important vocal albums of the year” by All About Jazz. Featuring originals alongside tunes by Sting and Bill Evans/Miles Davis, her album The Target was named one of the best jazz vocal albums of 2007 by Downbeat. The Downbeat reviewer called the recording “a milestone of maturity,” adding: “McGarry has the pure untrammeled voice of an ingénue who finds wonder in the simplest of things.” Her 2008 album, If Less Is More, Nothing Is Everything, was nominated for a Grammy Award, with The Wall Street Journal calling it “an exceptionally appealing blend of folk and jazz” for its mix of originals, standards, Brazilian tunes and songs by the likes of Bob Dylan. National Public Radio said: “Kate McGarry is called a jazz vocalist, but she's hard to pin down. She draws on the music of her youth to inspire her – from the Irish tunes of her family's roots to musical theater to pop songs.”
In 2008 Kate and her husband Keith Ganz made a foray into children’s music writing and recording 63 original children’s songs for the Heinle Picture Dictionary for Children, a bestselling international ESL educational product. Kate was then asked to sing the theme song for the hit children’s show, The WonderPets in a special jazz episode that featured the great Eartha Kitt and Jon Hendricks as The Cool Kat and the Hip Hippo.
Kate is a member of the vocal collective MOSS which features Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge, Lauren Kinhan and Luciana Souza. The group’s debut CD, MOSS on Sunnyside Records garnered a rare 4.5 Stars from Down Beat Magazine.
McGarry has performed on some of the world’s most beloved stages, from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Birdland to the Newport Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Fest and Jazz Baltica and has performed, recorded or toured with such jazz luminaries as Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Archie Shepp, Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck and Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown. Kate represented the U.S. State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center for 3 years in the American Music Abroad program, touring thru Romania, Albania, Brazil, Chile, China and Mongolia.
McGarry’s 2012 CD for Palmetto Records Girl Talk was a tribute to her favorite visionary jazz women vocalists. It garnered 4 stars in Downbeat Magazine and showed up on over 20 Best of 2012 jazz critic’s lists. Her 2013 collaboration with John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Songs I Like A Lot, was lauded as a milestone in contemporary vocal jazz, receiving a Grammy™nomination for Best Arrangement For A Vocalist. Collaborations with Ryan Truesdell, Jeremy Fox have resulted in great learning opportunities as well as additional Grammy nominations, awards and accolades.
Kate currently lives in Durham North Carolina with husband/guitarist Keith Ganz. The couple celebrated 10 years of musical and life partnership with their first live duo recording, Genevieve and Ferdinand, out on Sunnyside Records in 2014. The tunes, as is typical of their live sets, move freely between jazz, folk, Brazilian and singer songwriter genres and was lauded by critics and public alike.
Kate’s vision for the future includes recording, touring, composing and collaborating as well as teaching and continuing to pass on the many gifts that the jazz music tradition has given to her. As The Nashville Scene noted, “McGarry embraces jazz’s freedom and points the genre toward a future that’s as fresh and thrilling as it’s past.”