Both Rebecca Martin and Kate McGarry are native New Englanders in their 40s, and both create exceptionally appealing blends of folk and jazz in their new albums. Yet thanks to their contrasting voices and arrangements, Ms. McGarry's If Less Is More . . . Nothing Is Everything" (Palmetto) and Ms. Martin's The Growing Season" (Sunnyside) take their listeners on divergent sonic paths. Ms. McGarry sings in a broad, bluesy soprano that dominates her sound. Ms. Martin sings in a slightly lower register with a touch of world weariness to her timbres; her arrangements locate her voice more within the context of her backing instrumentalists.
Ms. McGarry is from Cape Cod, where she was one of 10 children. She received her degree in African-American music from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and sang on the Boston jazz scene in the late '80s before moving west. In Los Angeles she was guest vocalist with jazz luminaries like trumpeter Clark Terry and pianist Hank Jones, and she performed on several film soundtracks. She moved back east in the mid-1990s to study and teach at an ashram in the Catskills before settling in New York City in 1999. She now teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and records regularly for Palmetto.
She traces the development of her style to a range of influences. She studied great pianists such as Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett and the legendary singers Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. Then after college she fell under the sway of a variety of Brazilian and Indian singers. And along the way she continued to listen to the rock and folk she first heard as a youth.