Kate McGarry

The Target

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There are some people in the jazz world who just plain don't understand subtlety. That's why trumpeters Miles Davis and Chet Baker received a lot of negative reviews from critics who couldn't figure out why they didn't sound more like Fats Navarro; it's why Paul Desmond was criticized for not playing his alto aggressively à la Phil Woods or Jackie McLean. But being subtle does not mean being unexpressive, and vocalist Kate McGarry is both subtle and expressive on The Target. This 2007 release is not an example of forceful jazz singing; McGarry is not a brassy, belting, R&B-ish type of jazz singer. Not that there is anything wrong with being a brassy, belting, R&B-ish type of jazz singer -- that approach has been great for Ernestine Anderson, but it isn't where McGarry is coming from on her introspective performances of "The Meaning of the Blues," "The Lamp Is Low" and other standards. McGarry is someone who thrives on restraint and delicacy -- even on Betty Carter's "Do Something" -- but she never has a problem getting her points across emotionally. Unfortunately, the warhorse factor is too high on this 55-minute CD; did we really need to hear yet another version of "It Might as Well Be Spring," for example? But McGarry also turns her attention to Sting's "Sister Moon" and does so with pleasing results, reminding us that good things can happen when jazz vocalists are open to interpreting material from the pop/rock world. The Target isn't a five-star masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable disc that consistently underscores the value of subtlety and understatement.

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