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October 2008

Kate McGarry
If Less Is More... Nothing Is Everything
Palmetto Records

Strengthening her leadership role alongside Kurt Elling and Patricia Barber as one of the most captivating, and challenging, vocalists on the contemporary jazz scene, Kate McGarry delivers, as its title suggests, an album of complex simplicity. Adopting “less is more” as her musical mantra, McGarry says she has “always been drawn to the space of silence between the notes. It’s in the silences that the secrets of the songs reveal themselves.” Putting the theory intro practice, McGarry opens with readings of “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “You’re My Thrill” that, in their stark beauty, revel in the intoxicating lure of the unknown. Beneath her cover of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” trepidation and defensiveness pull like overpowering undertows. The Dylan anthem “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” which McGarry dedicates to Barack Obama, crackles with the fearless confidence of pure hope. The nakedly adulatory “I Carry Your Heart” (based on the e.e. cummings’ poem) rides on gentle waves of soul-deep contentment. McGarry’s vibrant “You Don’t Have to Cry” emerges as a chanting, pulsating affirmation of self-honesty. Conversely, her “Flor de Lis,” an examination of the oddly sweet frustration of a lover’s elusiveness, is fueled by the curious justifications that raw desire eagerly accepts as truth. Most cunning are the intentionally oblique “The Priest” and “Man of God,” wherein the quest for divinity (and the accompanying burden of supposed infallibility) is questioned, but the answer is left for our hearts to individually pursue.

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Lourdes Delgado

Kate McGarry

Originally published in October 2008
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