Saturday, November 05, 2005


Fantastic gig last night – Kate McGarry at the 55 Bar. Discovered the 55 Bar years ago – a small club with a very friendly listening vibe, and these days almost always full. Love that they don’t charge huge amounts of money for entrance and instead only have a 2-drink minimum. So heard 3 hours of excellent music for the price of 2 not very expensive drinks plus some notes for the musicians ‘tip jar’. It’s also the kind of place where you can’t help but get talking to the folks sitting around you, so by the second set I had a small pile of business cards on the table and a couple of new mates who I’ll probably be seeing again at a gig at the Jazz Standard in a couple of weeks.

There were also a handful of very quirky characters there, not least two middle aged women who became obsessed with my hair in the middle of the gig and were leaning across the gangway (the only access for the bartender and audience) to stroke it for a large proportion of the set, causing a small pile-up situation as people tried to clamber around them. Not quite sure what the protocol is for ‘strangers randomly stroking hair’ in this country so for fear of causing a disturbance I just let them get on with it. It wasn’t unpleasant. But there was definitely something odd about these people.

Kate was on fantastic form. I really love the quality of her voice, with an almost folk-singer purity but a definite jazz delivery and a slight ‘catch’ in her phrasing which is totally unique and so beautiful it almost made me cry a couple of times. Her pitching is also always totally spot on, which (unfortunately) seems to be quite a rare quality in the majority of jazz vocalists these days. Her material spans a wide range of styles from Paul Simon songs, through to Djavan covers, standards and her own material, and in all of them she always tells a story.

I am totally fascinated by musicians who live and work 24/7 with their life partners. Kate’s husband is her guitarist, and the special spontaneous and perceptive communication they have onstage is truly amazing to watch and somehow brings the music onto a totally different level. I’ve often witnessed the same thing between Stacey Kent and her husband Jim Tomlinson onstage, and in both cases sometimes felt a bit sorry for the other musicians in the band who can’t possibly understand or be fully part of that intense musical and personal interaction. And in fact the most inspiring music at last night’s gig was when Kate and her husband played unaccompanied.

But how do any two human beings spend all their time together and invest so much of themselves and their creativity in each other in such a supportive and non-competitive way?
It’s an awesome mystery to me and I am full of admiration.  In my recently married state I still find it almost impossible to share a takeaway or a towel, never mind a career and 24 hours of my day………


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