In Southern California jazz circles, Cathy Segal-Garcia has a reputation for being a very straight-ahead singer -- a swinging improviser who obviously knows her way around the Tin Pan Alley songbook. But Segal-Garcia reveals another side of herself on Secret Life, which is a major departure from the straight-ahead jazz albums she is best known for. The only standard on this CD is Buddy Johnson's "Save Your Love for Me"; everything else on Secret Life was written by Segal-Garcia herself, and her writing is by no means limited to jazz. Actually, Secret Life is best described as a pop/adult contemporary album with jazz, folk and R&B influences; this time, Segal-Garcia moves into singer/songwriter territory and gives the impression that she has been spending a lot of time listening to Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Julia Fordham and Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie -- and that singer/songwriter perspective serves her well on introspective offerings like "The Song," "If It Could Be" and the haunting "My Russia." Secret Life indicates that if Segal-Garcia had decided to make pop her main focus instead of jazz, she would have had a meaningful career in the singer/songwriter field. But stylistically, Secret Life is the exception instead of the rule for the Southern California resident, and this CD is unlikely to please bop snobs. Quite frankly, the jazz world is full of musical ideologues who have very specific ideas about how artists should sound -- people who believe that jazz is the true faith and that anyone who performs rock, R&B, folk, reggae, rap or country is an infidel. But not all jazz fans are that myopic, and those who are open to hearing Segal-Garcia explore non-jazz territory will find Secret Life to be an enjoyable addition to her catalog.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson