To prepare for Girl Talk, a collection of loving homages to her role models, rather than listen to Sheila Jordan, Betty Carter, Nina Simone and others sing, Kate McGarry sought out interviews with them, drawing inspiration from their tales of courage and fortitude amid countless professional hardships. The resultant tracks aren’t specifically honorific—there’s no “Here’s to Life” for Shirley Horn or “Throw It Away” for Abbey Lincoln. Instead, these 10 standards serve as bridges, connecting the legacy of her predecessors to McGarry’s contemporary style and perspective. Hence her inclusion of the Neal Hefti title track, hardly the most progressive of lyrics, here wrenched (albeit gently) from its patronizing moors and recalibrated as a celebration of shared female views.
Throughout her previous album, If Less Is More, Nothing Is Everything, McGarry masterfully demonstrated how silence can be as powerful as the notes and words it separates. That same delicate balance is now applied to “We Kiss in a Shadow” (here an expression of hope for equal-marriage rights), Jimmy Rowles’ wistful “Looking Back,” an ingeniously re-imagined “The Man I Love” and, with Kurt Elling, an astounding “O Cantador” that builds from smoldering embers to impassioned bonfire. The remainder of the playlist finds a sprightlier but no less affecting McGarry bouncing through “I Just Found Out About Love” and “It’s a Wonderful World,” and stealthily navigating a slippery “Charade.”