Primary Instrument: Vocal
Singer Kate McGarry grew up in Hyannis, Mass., as one of 10 children in a musical family that spent many nights singing together.
At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she earned a degree in African-American music and jazz; she began developing her organic vocal style through early training in jazz performance with iconic saxophonist Archie Shepp, and her experiences studying at a meditation ashram and exploring Celtic, Brazilian and Indian music also contributed to her widescreen vision as a vocalist and composer. After years in Los Angeles, McGarry moved to New York in the late ‘90s; her independently produced sophomore album, Show Me, was picked up by Palmetto Records, making her the first vocalist on the label’s roster. Jazziz magazine declared about McGarry upon that first Palmetto release, “With this near-flawless album, she has arrived.”
In 2005, McGarry’s Mercy Streets album—which ranged characteristically from the Peter Gabriel title track to songs by Björk, Joni Mitchell and Irving Berlin—was called “one of the most important vocal albums of the year” by All About Jazz. Featuring originals alongside tunes by Sting and Bill Evans/Miles Davis, her album The Target was named one of the best jazz vocal albums of 2007 by Downbeat. The Downbeat reviewer called the recording “a milestone of maturity,” adding: “No matter how many liberties she takes with meter and interpretation, she exercises a fidelity to the meaning of the song. McGarry has the pure untrammeled voice of an ingénue who finds wonder in the simplest of things.” Her 2008 album, If Less Is More, Nothing Is Everything, was nominated for a Grammy Award, with The Wall Street Journal calling it “an exceptionally appealing blend of folk and jazz” for its mix of originals, standards, Brazilian tunes and songs by the likes of Bob Dylan. National Public Radio said: “Kate McGarry is called a jazz vocalist, but she's hard to pin down. She draws on the music of her youth to inspire her—from the Irish tunes of her family's roots to musical theater to pop songs.”
McGarry has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Birdland to the Berlin Jazz Fest, San Sebastian Jazz Fest and Jazz Baltica. The singer has recorded and toured with such jazz luminaries as Hank Jones, Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling and Maria Schneider. And she has toured Eastern Europe, South America and recently returned from a month long tour of China and Mongolia on behalf of the U.S. State Department.
Awards:2009 Grammy nomination Best Jazz Vocal CD Rising Star Downbeat Critic's Poll 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012
Spin McGarry's hushed amble through the Cars' Just What I Needed to see how high the bar can be set. ~ Jim Macnie, Village Voice
McGarry's sense of musical authenticity is beautifully blended with her always-original musical vision. ~ Don Heckman, The Los Angeles Times
There's no greater influence on the young generation of post- Joni female jazz singer-songwriters than Kate McGarry. ~ Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix
Rooted in an acute jazz sensibility and a passion for sophisticated pop songcraft, singer/songwriter Kate McGarry transforms all material-anything from Bjork to Jobim-into her own expressive worlds of drama, poetic, pitch-perfect but never prissy. ~ Owen McNally, Hartford Courant
Astute and sensitive ~ Nate Chinen, New York Times
Singer Kate McGarry employs her light, airy voice and intelligent way with words once again on her latest Palmetto release. ~ Time Out NY
Saying more with less is the signature approach of singer/songwriter Kate McGarry, who delivers these songs straight from the heart in a sweet, pitch-perfect voice that has few parallels in any genre. ~ Judith Schlesinger, AllAboutJazz.com
At a time when there are so many vocalists performing in styles that hearken back two or more generations, Kate McGarry strikes me as a quiet yet fearless original voice. She's not necessarily moving music ahead by shredding tradition but by incorporating so many different elements into her repertoire. ~ Richard Kamins, HartfordCourant.com
On the brink of her fourth release, and possibly her best, she shows no sign of relaxing her high artistic standard. She's one to watch and savor. ~ Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara News-Press
McGarry sings with the same gusto as the old-school jazz singers: Dianne Reeves, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald. The album has class written all over it. ~ Charlie Owen, Vail Daily