McGarry and Ganz's Genevieve and Ferdinand

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McGarry and Ganz's Genevieve and Ferdinand

Grammy-nominated singer Kate McGarry’s latest album,Genevieve and Ferdinand, is an idyllic stroll through the jazz, folk, pop, and Brazilian genres that make up the fabric of McGarry’s unique and compelling music. From a singing family, McGarry was brought up on a strong diet of old Irish folk tunes and American pop. (Three out of her 10 siblings perform, although you can be sure all can harmonize at family get togethers.) Kate first found her voice in traditional jazz (inspired by such vocal pioneers as Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae) and came of age in the 1980s when electric jazz met pop and Brazilian samba.

This album will feel somewhat familiar to those who have been listening to McGarry and her musical and life partner, guitarist Keith Ganz. The duo/couple have been playing and recording together for the last decade and, in this release, the songs are performed sans band. The album was recorded in a studio in front of a live audience with just vocal and guitar—no small feat to nail a studio sound in one take. Genevieve and Ferdinand revisits, reinterprets, and rearranges songs McGarry and Ganz have played over the years, interspersed with a few original tracks lest you mistake this for a retrospective. “Aquelas - Third Wind - Aqui O” is an arrangement of a Pat Metheny tune followed by Toninho Horta’s love song to Minas Gerais. This song probably best represents McGarry and Ganz’s virtuosity and deft musicality — Ganz’s nimble fingering carefully complements McGarry’s vocals.

“Smile” has become another of McGarry’s signature songs, since she first performed it impromptu in front of Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea so many years ago.

Two musical guests, Theo Bleckmann and Gian Slater, make appearances on “Pretending to Care,” a Todd Rundgren tune arranged by Bleckmann. While the songs meander across genre and topic (“Line 'em Up” is a James Taylor number written about Richard Nixon as he left the White House), McGarry and Ganz hold this album together through their consistent sound and temperament.

Genevieve and Ferdinand is a clear, sweet, yet no-nonsense recording — something that only comes over time, in and with good company, and a deep familiarity with one’s own instrument. The pared-down instrumentation, along with the crisp and precise singing McGarry is known for, are an audible relief to the pink slime regularly churned out by the musical industrial complex. McGarry and Ganz provide a satisfying feast to nourish your musical soul. And isn’t that why we all listen?

Available on iTunes and elsewhere.