Sep 9, 2021
Kate McGarry’s 2018 collaboration with life and stage partner Keith Ganz, The Subject Tonight Is Love was a song cycle that addressed love in its many different forms and iterations. From Rodgers and Hart to the Beatles to their own tunes, the album was uniformly wonderful, and featured many of their long-time musical collaborators, most notably the musical human Swiss army knife, Gary Versace, and drummer Obed Calvaire.
Hunkered down in their home in Durham, North Carolina to wait out the pandemic, the two turned to songs they had been considering recording for almost a decade. The result is another song cycle, this time taking the listener from dark to light, mirroring the road the world has been traveling for the past year.
What to Wear in the Dark features vibrant, jazz-fueled rearrangements of songs by iconic songwriters of the 70's, including their unique takes on tunes from Steely Dan, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and George Harrison. Their usual case of top-fight musicians for this release includes Versace, trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Sean Smith and drummers Calvaire and Clarence Penn, among others.
The album is full of startling interpretations of songs most boomers have come to know and love. While the standard “Dancing in the Dark” gets a chilly reading, the songs and arrangements gets progressively warmer and dare I say, lighter, as the album goes on. By the time a plaintive take on “Desperado” arrives, the album is ready to peak in intensity, highlighted by following tracks - the multipart vocal arrangement of “On the Road to Find Out,” vibrant versions of “Anthem ” and “Here Comes the Sun,” and the capper, the McGarry take on a Hafiz poem, “It Happens All the Time in Heaven.”
A three time Grammy nominee, Kate has toured and recorded with jazz illuminati Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck, Billy Childs, Luciana Souza, and Theo Bleckmann. The Subject Tonight Is Love earned both Kate and Keith Grammy nominations in 2019, and I suspect that the new album will garner them similar acclaim.
Podcast 842 is my conversation with Kate and Keith, as we discuss their time during the pandemic, the selection and arranging of the tunes for What to Wear in the Dark, and their plans for touring in the near future. Musical selections include “Dancing in the Dark,” and Steely Dan’s “Barrytown.”