Cathy Segal-Garcia

Alone Together

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For jazz singers, having fewer instruments can be either advantageous or disadvantageous; it all depends on what the singer is capable of. Employing fewer musicians means that a vocalist is more exposed and vulnerable, which is a bad thing if the he/she is untalented -- there are fewer musicians to hide behind. But it can be a very good thing if the singer has a lot to offer. On this Japanese release, the only person who accompanies Cathy Segal-Garcia is acoustic pianist Phillip Strange -- no bass, no drums, no guitar, no horns. Inferior vocalists would be shooting themselves in the foot if they went with piano-only accompaniment, but Segal-Garcia is an expressive, appealing jazz singer -- and, consequently, she does herself a favor by down sizing. Segal-Garcia really digs into intimate, highly introspective performances of great but overdone standards like "Out of This World," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," and "Misty." Over the years, these songs have been beaten to death -- some would argue that there needs to be a moratorium on them. But Segal-Garcia, to her credit, manages to sound personal on the most overdone warhorses. Nonetheless, she would do well to be more adventurous and far-reaching in her choice of material. Instead of insisting on yet another version of a Cole Porter or Rodgers & Hart standard that jazz lovers have heard countless times, how about finding the jazz possibilities in the music of the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, or Prince? Segal-Garcia should take a hint from England's Claire Martin and the Philadelphia-based Lou Lanza, two risk-taking jazz singers who realize that worthwhile popular music did not die with George Gershwin. But, all things considered, Alone Together is a pleasing effort that paints an attractive, if imperfect, picture of Segal-Garcia.

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