Saturday, January 27, 2018

All You Need......

These days, it seems the world is louder than it's ever been. Many people blame the acidic political climate, the acerbic comments from on high and in the various forms of media that crowd our pockets and desktops.

Creative music reflects our times.  "Protest" songs comes from rap artists, from modern country artists;  jazz musicians respond today as Max Roach and Charles Mingus did in the late 1950s and1960s and the song/stories created by Gil Scott-Heron in the 1970s.  Musicians and composers feel the need to live in the present and to connect with as many people as possible. The airwaves are cluttered, the choices are many, yet the messages are often drowned by the collective apathy.

Pledge Music
What to make of "The Subject Tonight is Love"?  It's the new album from the trio of Kate McGarry (vocals), Keith Ganz (guitar, acoustic bass guitar), and Gary Versace (piano, electric piano, organ, accordion). The project, crowd-funded through Pledge Music and self-released on the artists' Binxtown Records, is an intimate project conceived by three friends who have worked together closely over the past decade or so (certainly on the past three albums Ms. McGarry released on Palmetto).  It's my belief that this music is a response to the harsh noises of the past several years, to the rancor one sees in many social interactions, not in the manner of the psychedelic 60s "Peace & Love" but as adult artists finding that true "repair" starts at home and moves outward.

The program is an enchanting, challenging, rewarding, and, in the long run, soul-satisfying experience.  The "Prologue", really the title track, is an original melody by Ganz with lyrics from the 14th Century Persian poet Hafiz (1319-1390?) sets the stage: "The subject tonight is LoveAnd for tomorrow night as well,/ As a matter of fact/ I know of no better topic For us to discuss/ Until we all Die!"  All the songs deal with the various forms in which people love and live, from courageous to fleeting to fractured to new love to maternal love and more.  Seven of the 12 tracks are standards. Most of them should be familiar but what the trio does with the music is quite magical.  There's the beauty of "Secret Love", opening with the the whispery vocal over the nylon string guitar and then Versace entering with counterpoint.  The jazzy take of "Gone With The Wind" (from the pen of Allie Wrubel and Herb Magidson) opens nicely into a delightful piano solo with excellent support from Ganz's acoustic bass guitar.  Ms McGarry's playful vocal is a real treat as she moves in and out of melody and "scat" syllables.  "My Funny Valentine" is amazing (listen below), from the arrangement of the guitar, bass, and keyboards to the honesty and vulnerability in the vocal.  Is the singer wistful, hopeful, fretful, pleading, or all of that and more.  All this can be heard as well in the instrumental work. Pay attention to the heartfelt "Fair Weather", composed by Benny Golson and Kenny Dorham, known as well for a brilliant recording by Chet Baker. It's such a handsome melody with lyrics that speak of equality composed at a time - 1958 - when the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to be noticed in the United States. Of course, 60 years later and the message is still poignant and still on point.  There is also is a sweet take of Egberto Gismonti's "Palhaço" - Geraldo Carneiro wrote the original Portuguese lyrics while this version, retitled "Playing Palhaço", has English lyrics by Jo Lawry.  

There are three pieces with original lyrics from Ms McGarry, one of which, "Climb Down", addresses her Irish ancestors and the issues they had on both sides of the Atlantic. The music may remind some of the work of Robbie Robertson and Dick Connette (Last Forever) but with a hefty blues edge.  The vocalist's "Losing Strategy #4" is about lost love and turning the blame away from one's self and how that always fails.  The lovely piano, bass guitar, and accordion accompaniment sets a lonely tone that resonates long after the song fades.  The third original "She Always Will" looks at life, our many decisions that lead us to roads we may never expected to take; yet, this could also be a dream or a reflection the composer had standing by a pond or sitting on the porch by herself.

There are playful moments, songs where Ms. McGarry's voice soars over the organ, piano, and guitar (such as "What a Difference a Day Made") - everyone sound like they are having such fun.  Perhaps it's the freedom that "doing it yourself" brings, that you're making the music you have always wanted to make, taking chances you always wanted to take, and that there is an audience who appreciates what you, will support you and embrace your stories.  Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz, and Gary Versace actually recorded 30 songs as they were preparing "The Subject Tonight is Love", such an exciting prospect that the sessions certainly yielded more delightful musical stories, more aural support, smiles, and, even tears.  

This is music to climb inside of and take to your heart. Really, just give in. It's good to smile!

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