Photo: David Bartolomi
With 5 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 served on the faculties of Manhattan School of Music and New England Conservatory. Downbeat Magazine has cited McGarry as 'Rising Star' vocalist for the past 5 years. She has been interviewed on All Things Considered, Jazz Set w/DeeDee Bridgwater, Piano Jazz w/Marion McPartland.
Singer Kate McGarry grew up in Hyannis, Mass., as 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 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 (Steven Santoro) debut album, Show Me, was picked up by Palmetto Records, making her the first vocalist on the label’s roster. Jazziz Magazine declared, “With this near-flawless album, she has arrived.”
In 2005 McGarry’s Mercy Streets album – which ranged characteristically 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: “No matter how many liberties she takes with meter and interpretation, she exercises a fidelity to the meaning of the song. 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 and an invitation to the Berlin Jazz Festival. The group is working on a follow up recording.
McGarry has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Birdland to the Newport Jazz Festival, San Sebastian Jazz Fest and Jazz Baltica. The singer has performed, recorded or toured with such jazz luminaries as Hank Jones, Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck and Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown. Kate represented the U.S. State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center as a jazz ambassador for 3 years running in the American Music Abroad program. Tours included month long tours of Romania, Albania, Brazil, Chile, China and Mongolia.
McGarry’s 5th CD for Palmetto Records Girl Talk was released in the spring of 2012. 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.
Kate currently lives in Durham North Carolina with her husband, guitarist Keith Ganz. The couple are celebrating 10 years of musical and life partnership with their first live duo recording, Genevieve and Ferdinand, which will be released on Sunnyside Records Feb 11, 2014. The tunes, as is typical of their live sets, move freely between jazz, folk, Brazilian and singer songwriter genres. Singular arrangements of classics by Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren and James Taylor sit side by side with Gershwin and Irving Berlin, Toninho Horta and their haunting originals. Special guest vocalists Theo Bleckmann and Gian Slater add their magical sounds on one track.
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.”