NORA MCCARTHY RELEASES AN EXQUISITE DUET CD - CIRCLE COMPLETING
Scott Yanow, Author of nine jazz books including Trumpet Kings, Swing, Bebop, Jazz On Record 1917-76 and Jazz On Film
Known as a brilliant improviser with a warm and highly expressive voice, Nora McCarthy recently released her newest recording, Circle Completing. The set of duets with pianist John DiMartino sums up Ms. McCarthy’s colorful story so far, is a tribute to the legendary singer Jimmy Scott, and is a consistently surprising look at life’s lessons. “One has to experience life before singing these types of songs,” says Nora.
Circle Completing, which is comprised of three of the singer’s originals plus six standards, is a very spontaneous set that emerged with a unified purpose. “We recorded all of the music in four hours,” remembers Nora,” and several of the songs came out of nowhere.” Starting with “Come Fly With Me,” an optimistic dream of having a perfect relationship, Circle Completing includes the soul ballad “To Be With You” (which was associated with Joe Cuba), a wistful and lyrical rendition of “Too Late Now,” “Hawaiian Wedding Song” (which looks back to the singer’s musical beginnings), a playful rendition of the blues “Little Red Rooster,” and her haunting original “In The Early Morning Light,” a spoken word piece which is about infidelity, having one’s heart broken, and dealing with new realities. On “The Shadow Of Your Smile,” a standard about lost love, she interprets the words and then creates some scatting that is heartfelt improvising which perfectly fits the song. Nora concludes the memorable set with her philosophical “Life Is A Song To Song” and her poetic tribute to Jimmy Scott, “Faith In Time (Jimmy’s Song).”
But more than the individual songs, Circle Completing is a moody suite that deals with the evolution of life, coming to a place of forgiveness, letting go, and ultimately moving on to the next level. “Every day you have to forgive yourself and everybody. One has to concentrate on compassion. Jimmy Scott is the living embodiment of that, how he suffered and yet rose above it all.” While Nora McCarthy has worked extensively in duets with bassist Juini Booth, saxophonist Jorge Sylvester and bassist Dominic Duval, her collaboration with John diMartino has its own personality. “No matter who you put John with, he sounds different than anyone else. He is extremely creative, has a great rhythmic concept, and can do it all. He knows how to be an accompanist without sacrificing his own artistic integrity. We have our own sound together.”
Nora McCarthy has thus far had a very productive and significant musical career. She grew up in Cleveland, sang Hawaiian songs professionally with her father-in-law, worked extensively in local jazz clubs, and moved to New York in 1994. A poet and a songwriter in addition to being a singer, she recorded red&blue, became part of the New York avant-garde scene without losing her roots in standards, recorded duets with Jorge Sylvester that were inspired by the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky (A Small Dream In Red), and worked with such groups as the 20-piece orchestra ConceptualMotion (which she co-leads and co-founded), Kuumba Frank Lacy’s Vibe Tribe, Butch Morris’ A Chorus Of Poets, the Next Legacy Jazz Orchestra, the ACE (Afro-Caribbean-Experimental) Collective, in addition to her own Qu’ART’et.
While Circle Completing can be considered Nora McCarthy’s most accessible recording to date due to her love for standards and the tradition, her adventurous singing, the spontaneous interplay with John diMartino, and the unpredictability of the music result in the innovative duets being full of subtle surprises.
"...Nora's vocal identity, aside from a basic jazz orientation, defies classification, and makes spare use of reflexive stylistic mannerisms. In the placement of her voice, Nora can evoke the power of a Malian Diva's fearless candor, or perhaps a Corsican Voceratrice's call to invisible worlds in the language of dreams, or the earthiness of an early blues singer's unvarnished autobiographical witness. She has been attentive to the fluid articulation, phrasing and timbre of the jazz trumpet, the instrument that most clearly has influenced her vocal development. Her shaping of pitch often foregoes the fluid note-bending of the jazz singer in favor of the full press of a sculptor's touch against viscous clay." Ramsey Ameen, former violinist with Cecil Taylor’s Unit and 3 Phasis, mathematician and scholar. A Gathering of the Tribes Magazine, 2005.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:
"Nora's vocal identity, aside from a basic jazz orientation, defies classification, and makes spare use of reflexive stylistic mannerisms. In the placement of her voice, Nora can evoke the power of a Malian Diva's fearless candor, or perhaps a Corsican Voceratrice's call to invisible worlds in the language of dreams, or the earthiness of an early blues singer's unvarnished autobiographical witness. She has been attentive to the fluid articulation, phrasing and timbre of the jazz trumpet, the instrument that most clearly has influenced her vocal development. Her shaping of pitch often foregoes the fluid note-bending of the jazz singer in favor of the full press of a sculptor's touch against viscous clay." Ramsey Ameen, musician and former violinist with Cecil Taylor. 12/2005 A Gathering of the Tribe's Magazine www.tribes.org
"...COMPLETE PASSION! ABSOLUTE CREATIVITY! TOTAL CONFIDENCE!" ... Niranjan Jhaveri (10/06) Jazz critic, author, lecturer, educator, panelist and organizer (director) of JazzYatra Festivals - Founder of Jazz India Vocal Institute (JIVI)
"...A SUPERB ARTIST!!" Joao Da Penha - (2008) Jazz & Bossa Nova Radio Program Brasil
"...Nora McCarthy sings with an emphatic delivery. She interprets lyrics with fits of passion and relaxes casually with wordless sprees. She uses her fluid delivery to jump effortlessly to the highest and lowest regions of her vocal range. McCarthy's "Miles Mind" carries a significant impression, as her voice recalls the frailty found in Davis' horn through the years." Jim Santella, Jazz Improv Magazine, July, 2007
"...McCarthy, who works in every setting from a saxophone and vocal duo to a twenty-piece orchestra, demonstrates that she is not one to simply serenade with the usual mix of standards." Dan Bilawski, Jazz Improv Magazine, March, 2007
"...Ballads are McCarthy's forte. She develops them into love songs with effortless guile, gliding smoothly through her lyrics to set the requited or unrequited love stage." Frank Rubolino, Cadence, April, 2000 "The Review of Jazz & Blues: Creative Improvised Music
"...She plays her tender instrument, like a musician trying to get the best out of some favored old horn." Edward Hill, The Cleveland Plain Dealer Arts Section
"...Continental and sophisticated, McCarthy is as much chanteuse as jazz singer." The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"...A voice that is alternately liquid, breezy, and lustrous. Sophistication in the same vein as Chet Baker." Sound Views Magazine
"...Yet another voice in the retro-cool school "almost at times, as cool as Julie London, but with a serpentine edge". Gary Giddins, The Village Voice, Voice Choices.
"...Nora McCarthy has a deep voice, with the timbre and range of Sarah Vaughan's. She uses ever-so-subtle pitch-bending and straight tones and just a lovely touch of vibrato." International Society For Improvised Music
"...Nora McCarthy delivers with the improvisational intuition of Betty Carter and the compassion of Billie Holiday. McCarthy tackles harmonically complex material of Thelonius Monk with relative ease then easily slips into a relaxed Latin style that owes much to Brazilian samba queen Astrud Gilberto." The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"...It's delightful to hear music that plays so freely with the known and the unknown elements of jazz." All About Jazz Magazine, NY
"...A non-generic and exciting vocalist to be aware of." All About Jazz And L.A. Jazz Scene