CIRCLE COMPLETING Come Fly with Me, To Be with You, Too Late Now, Hawaiian Wedding Song, Little Red Rooster, In the Early Morning Light, The Shadow of Your Smile, Life Is a Song to Sing, Faith in Time (Jimmy’s Song). PERSONNEL: Nora McCarthy, voice, compositions, poetry; John di Martino, piano.
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.