“The Subject Tonight Is Love” is a jazz love letter to a hopeful 2018″, says singer Kate McGarry in the press release to her new album, out last Friday. It’s a trio record with her partner, guitarist and bassist Keith Ganz, and pianist, keyboardist and accordionist Gary Versace. The three have been working together on each other’s projects over the years and now come up with a collection of songs circling around 14th century Persian poet Hafiz and his timeless words “The subject tonight is love/And for tomorrow night as well / As a matter of fact / I know of no better topic / For us to discuss / Until we all / Die!”
Kate has included five standards that fit the topic of the album: “Secret Love”, “Gone With The Wind”, “What A Difference A Day Made”, “Indian Summer”, and “My Funny Valentine”. Throughout, Kate’s voice shines bright and giving each song the right amount of warmth and caress. Gary’s use of the electric keyboard on “My Funny Valentine” saves this over-used classic. Plus Kate’s very strict, direct, personal and no-frills approach. The drama is left out and beauty and tenderness walk in. The trio swings through “Gone With The Wind” with some sparkling piano work by Gary, but the scatting towards the end is really not for me. “What A Difference A Day Made” is combined with “Mr. Sparkle”, an original by Keith Ganz, and includes some festive organ work by Gary.
My favorite is a seldom heard tune written by Benny Golson and Kenny Dorham and recorded for the first time by Art Farmer in 1958 for his “Modern Art” album. Chet Baker also recorded the track which has some beautiful lyrics by Mr. Golson: “There’ll be fair weather together, side by side, It will know that hate will die and love will win.” The trio treats “Fair Weather” as a paean for peace and harmony, Kate reminding me of Sheila Jordan storytelling and all of them really taking their time on this one. It comes out as a really strong statement. Hope rules! But there is also joy and happiness delivered here and the best example for that is the Egberto Gismonti composition “Playing Palhaço”. Messing around isn’t exactly what McGarry/Ganz/Versace are doing with this particular piece, but the playfulness is indeed infectious.
“She Always Will” was first recorded for Kate’s 2007 album “The Target” which included the tenor sax of Donny McCaslin, Reuben Rogers and Gregory Hutchinson in addition to Keith and Gary. The folk meets jazz aesthetic is really one of the characteristics which set Kate’s art apart from most other singers in this field. And the beauty really unfolds after the almost eight minutes are over (similar to that other longer track here, the afore-mentioned “Fair Weather”). This is also impacting her own “Climb Down”, a fascinating Rickie Lee Jones-style story about her own family history which segues into the Irish folk tune “Whiskey You’re The Devil” which adds some spice courtesy of drummer Obed Calvaire. There is a very uplifting, but pretty short take on the Beatles’ classic “All You Need Is Love” as a fitting finale to this album, colored with the celebratory voice of Ron Miles on trumpet.