A Room with Rapturous Acoustics: Step into Cathy Segal-Garcia’s JAZZ CHAMBER

Cathy Segal Garcia

In true chamber orchestra form, the strings swell and the emotion builds in “Cinema Paradiso,” one of the tracks from vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia’s newest CD. Aptly named for the blend of genres, her album “Jazz Chamber” holds many re-invented surprises.

The mournful muted trumpet intro in “Time After Time” leads into a lovely display of Segal-Garcia’s perfectly melodic chops. Her voice, almost operatic, is a classical study of this 90’s hit, with a rich feel and exquisite phrasing.

If you step into this Jazz Chamber you will find the room to be infused with the fascinating tones that are uniquely, and beautifully, Segal-Garcia’s. 

What thoughts and ideas went into “Jazz Chamber”? 

I love the depth of good writing, good arranging, good musicianship. A combining of classical and jazz appeals to me for these reasons.

One of my long-term desires was to sing with an orchestra or chamber orchestra. I know a lot of great musicians/arrangers/producers, so it was a very organic and natural set of actions for this to be accomplished.

Why did you choose a waltz feel for “Star Eyes”?  

I’ve always loved this song. And I felt that Carmen McRae did the ultimate version, in a Latin style. I wanted to sing it, but had to get away from her arrangement. I am always trying new styles for old songs, and tried it as a jazz waltz (I love jazz waltzes!) and it worked fantastically. When Bevan Manson heard that choice, he got really excited about arranging it!

How did you get your start in music?

My dad was a sax player and band leader. Mom was a big band singer. My twin sisters, four years older than me, sang great and one played the piano.

I loved music since I can remember being alive. We always played and listened, and when I was 12 years old I did my first real gig. Before that we played at family functions.

What is the single most important thing you learned in your formal studies?

Probably that the musicians and the singer are all co-arrangers, working in the same universe in the moment.

What is the most important element of the music business you had to teach yourself?

Promoting/marketing is a real necessity. And you have to be really clever at it. There have been too many great artists who were not aware of it or didn’t accept responsibility for it. It’s part of making a living at music.

How would you compare the market today – the interest in live jazz? 

Some people say that jazz is dead. I couldn’t disagree more! Jazz changes, just like life. I look around now and see so much growth and excitement in the artists coming up. Through these artists there are more diverse audiences. PR and marketing will bring more and more interest.

What is your biggest challenge as a musician?

To keep studying and growing.

What themes inspire you?

Hope. Love, all kinds. Coming together as humankind. Reaching for betterment as a human being. 

Why do you enjoy surrounding yourself with an ensemble of many types of instruments?

Each instrument has a unique sound, texture and character. Of course, it’s the musicians who play the instruments who make the instrument interesting. I remember years ago when a bassist chided me for saying his instrument was so amazing sounding. He made sure I knew that what I liked was him playing the great instrument.

How do you take care of your voice?

Practice voice technique…daily is ideal, then I’m ready for anything at any time, for any length of time. I eat well…hardly any dairy, sugar, bread. I drink a lot of water. I take supplements that help with general health and well-being. I keep a spiritual point of view.

Have you done theater performances?

Yes. Both in plays and large jazz-oriented performances.

How does the feeling of a huge venue compare with a small club performance?

Theater is very different, because you’re playing a part, a person, usually with the song a specific way.

Large stages with jazz concerts are not so different. Some like that better, because they can’t see the audience’s faces so well. I like both.

Also, with any of these experiences…there are certain things that should remain the same. A state of mind that contains creativity. In the moment awareness and response. Connection with the musicians. Responsibility of doing the best you’re capable of.

When was “In2ition” released?

March of 2017

What were the highlights of creating “In2uition”?

Playing with each musician! I started out wanting to record with older musicians who I felt wouldn’t be around too much longer. But it morphed into recording with some of my favorite musicians I’ve worked with. 

Cathy Segal Garcia CD cover

When was “The Jazz Chamber” released?

March of 2018.

Your favorite track?

Oh, that’s too difficult to answer! They each have something that makes me like each one. Each musician and song bring out a different response in me as well.

Are the songs chosen because they relate to one another or are they presented to contribute something on their own?

I chose each one with thought of the pianist whom I wanted to record with. Strengths and personalities are what makes playing with each musician so special.

What do you like most about the LA jazz scene?

The community. I know I’ve done a lot towards creating the community. I’ve always felt that we’re in this together; healthy competition is fine but unhealthy competition ruins the scene for everyone. At this time, there’s lots of growth and togetherness.

Where would you most like to perform?

I’d like to do more big concerts and festivals. I like the feeling of being intimate with large crowds. It’s fun! 

Your favorite small club?

I was really digging the club I booked a jazz series at for the last 2 ½ years…Bar Fedora/Saturday Night Jazz DTLA. Great intimate club, with lighting and sound.

I love The Blue Whale in downtown LA. The owner was my former vocal student. We’re very tight and I’m extremely proud of him. That club is great and his taste in booking is excellent. 

Name the core group of musicians on these CDs and what each one brings.

In2uition: I’ve known all these players for years.

Josh Nelson: He’s almost like a Bill Evans. Sensitive yet can be bold. Rhythmic and harmonically adventurous.

John Beasley: Adventurous! Very rhythmically active. Fun to create with.

Karen Hammack: She is a player who plays rock, R&B, jazz all great. Her timing is great. On this recording I had her do my folky originals, which she does deliciously.

Calabria Foti: The only other instrument on the CD, she brings heart to the violin creation.

Otmaro Ruiz: A brilliant musician. “Bonita” is a song I started singing when I was a child, with my sisters. To bring it back, supported by him, was a joy.

Vardan Ovsepian: A very smart guy and musician, he often works with chamber orchestras. His harmonic concepts are deep. “Something We May Never Know” I’ve been singing for years. It’s written by the amazing Shelby Flint. I wrote lyrics to Vardan’s interlude, for the intro and ending…I think a perfect fit to the song.

Gary Fukushima: I love Gary. He’s one of the best players I know. His sense of harmony and rhythm are not standard. We have a quirky group that recorded “The Moment – Live at the Blue Whale – featuring Cathy Segal-Garcia” that retains its personality no matter how long it is between gigs. (It includes Chuck Manning on tenor sax, Brad Dutz on percussion, Jeff Richman on guitar. No bass, and Gary usually plays electric piano.)

David Moscoe: Dave is a local player, always has been. Hasn’t really gone out on tour, doesn’t play with the more modern guys. He’s brilliant at what he does…accompaniment and being creative with standards. He also has this choral patch on his electric piano that we’ve had so much fun with over the years. Had to put that on this CD!

Bevan Manson: Bevan is a Mozart-type of genius musician! One foot firmly in classical and one firmly in jazz. This song he introduced to me when we first met, many years ago in Boston. I couldn’t believe it because it was in my key and the intervals were what I love. Great theme too…about Bill Evans.

Jane Getz: Jane has played with an amazing array of musicians from rock to jazz. She plays great straight-ahead jazz for me.

Llew Mathews: Llew played for Nancy Wilson for years, among others. One of those truly amazing accompanists for a jazz singer, this version of “America” had his soul and jazz chops. It was also probably his last recording, and I’m honored to have carried that.

The Jazz Chamber:

Well, this recording had about 25 musicians on it. There were different core groups, and different horn players and different string players. The arrangers really created the voice for this project. Bevan Manson, Dennis Dreith, Dori Amarilio. It was amazing that with these different arrangers, the project came together and held a position. I’m sure my singing was part of the glue of course. And the high level of musicians.

The guest singers: Tierney Sutton, Kate McGary, Mon David and “Fish to Birds” (Ashley Maher, Emile Hassan Dyer, Cecily Gardner, Adrianne Duncan, Tracy Robertson, Mon David and me) all hold a special place in my history and heart. Wonderful contributions.

I’m so honored to have the woodwind player Bennie Maupin on the project! Talk about history of jazz! I love that cut, Bennie’s song, “Message to Prez.”

The rhythm sections were a large part of the glue too: Nick Mancini and Lolly Allen on vibes. Joe LaBarbara, Matt Gordy, Steve Hass on drums. Jamie Rosenn, Tom Rizzo on guitar. Bevan Manson, piano. Brad Dutz, Brian Kilgore on percussion. Kenny Wild, Edwin Livingston, Dominic Genova on bass.

The horn players: Bob Sheppard, Chuck Finley, Rob Lockhart, Jeff Driskill, Greg Huckins, Phil Feather, Catherine Del Russo.

And amazing string players: Jennie Hansen, Amy Hershberger, Rafi and Susan Rashik, Alan Busteed, Andrew Shulman, Ben Hudson, Irina Voloshina, Armen Ksajikian.

What are your hopes for “In2uition” and “The Jazz Chamber”?

My hopes, as always, are that I can create beautiful and respected products. And that people will recognize what I’m capable of, and hire me for other great projects.

Other comments?

I now have 11 recordings, and I’m working on three more of my own, producing several other artists, and also a tribute (on which I’ll sing) to one of the best jazz singers I ever knew/heard, Stephanie Haynes. It’s such a process of growth, and I love being involved in recording.

Thank you for your interest and your own contributions!

For more information, visit http://cathysegalgarcia.com/.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Cathy Segal-Garcia.

© Debbie Burke 2018


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