In the liner notes to her latest recording, the launch of an impactfully themed two part album series titled Social Anthems, Volume 1, L.A. based jazz vocal great Cathy Segal-Garcia cuts to the heart of the mission – not just her own, but that of every artist looking to make a difference with their songs: “Music is capable of seeping into the cracks of our lives, touching on our pain and vulnerabilities so ultimately it can offer us hope and healing.”
Cathy clearly takes her philosophy to heart on these six exquisitely arranged and produced, sometimes hip and swinging, often meditative/contemplative tracks, which finds her drawing wisdom from and cultivating fresh expression in music from another socio-politically charged era that applies so hauntingly to our current zeitgeist.
The cleverness of the sultry-voiced singer’s approach begins with a tidy but somehow expansive set list that, on the retro side, includes everything from a snazzy, emotionally raucous twist on Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” (as much a showcase for her as the instrumental wit and improvisational wisdom of guitarist Anthony Wilson and pianist Josh Nelson) to a slow-building burn through a medley of “Get Together” and “Can’t Find My Way Home” which balances a hopeful clarion call with an admission of frustration at getting back to who we can collectively be.
She also duets powerfully with the resonant tenor vocals of Mon David on an expansive re-imagining of Marvin Gaye’s “Save the Children” that has dire current applications to the worsening problems of climate change. Yet just when you think Cathy’s going to make this something of a vibey atmospheric update tribute to the songs of the similarly fraught Vietnam era, she throws in a few delightful curves.
A folk-jazz original about a complicated personal relationship whose questions apply perfectly to our current universal situation (“What Are We Gonna Do”). A lush and exotic, gospel tinged rendition of “Down To Earth,” a semi-obscure Peter Gabriel tune from the end credits of the 2008 AI-themed animated film “WALL-E.” And last but not least, a soft hearted melancholy take on Billy Joel’s romantic reflection “And So It Goes,” featuring the whispery rasp of New York vocalist Paul Jost between her graceful, pin-drop precise sung verses.