Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Cathy Segal-Garcia's Dreamsville

Cathy Segal-Garcia has been a fixture on the LA jazz scene for many years, as both a singer/songwriter and as an educator. Dreamsville is her twelfth album as a leader--she's enlisted the help of guitarist Larry Koonse and pianist Josh Nelson to create this intimate mix of standards and original compositions that veer a bit from the norm. Perhaps that is due to Segal-Garcia's voice, which is complex and rich and carries a touch of sadness to every song--or, perhaps, to every note. She's adding something specific to all eleven of these tracks, a feeling that these songs are meant for those who have just crawled out from under life and have dusted themselves off and are ready for more of the same because it wasn't really that bad. It's a weariness, it's true, but Segal-Garcia uses her deep and expressive voice to suggest more--not hope, not optimism, but perhaps that faith in our ability to rebound.

Indeed, this album is not your garden-variety female jazz vocal album, nor is it meant to be. The musical interplay between Koonse and Nelson is lush and melodic and can lull you into blankness, but it's the singer's words, so direct and infused with meaning, that compel you to attention, to wondering what really happened in her past. That's how convincing she is at this chosen role.

The mood is the star here, the dark and shadowy world this trio creates consistently from song to song. Even when these three really stretch by performing an absolutely gorgeous take on Scarlatti's Sonata in B minor L.33, it's so connected to the rest of the album that its inclusion avoids novelty and feels downright necessary. These moods are easy to sustain, I believe, because the trio never really uses one musical genre as a springboard over another. There are certainly jazz elements, and obviously classical ones, but Dreamsville reaches into those dark corners and runs on that hard-to-categorize energy from beginning to end.

How does this translate into the average audiophile and his love for well-recorded female voice? Well, Dreamsville is clearly that, a great recording with plenty of space for deep thinking. But this isn't the kind of music you want to absorb passively, as an antidote to a long and difficult day. This album is sad, and it might demand more attention from you. It might trouble you. But the best music always does.

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