Cathy Segal-Garcia is nothing if not prolific. An international performer, to be sure, she is also a Jazz educator and 14-time recording artist. This is a departure but a natural development from 2018's The Jazz Chamber, a brilliant album with a chamber orchestra and joined by fellow vocalists Mon David and Kate McGarry.
Now Cathy offers Social Anthems, Volume 1 and brings along those great West Coast Jazz cats who make it look so easy. She is joined by guitarist Anthony Wilson, the inimitable Josh Nelson on piano, Lorca Hart on drums, Edwin Livingston on bass and Paul Jost on vocals and harmonica on track three, and...wait for it...Mon David on vocals on track six.
What Cathy does on this album is take the songs from the Rock and Pop scene that speak to the times—their times and ours. These six songs served as rallying points for the culture, counterculture, and for individuals. Cathy explains, "I've been experiencing feelings of malaise and angst for quite some time now. And most of my friends have said the same thing. People are afraid for the future. I chose the songs on this album because I felt they are timely and speak to those feelings."
Six songs may not sound like much but Cathy and the artists with her deliver the full impact and import of these songs and their meaning for us, here and now.
It all begins with the Buffalo Springfield classic, For What It's Worth. It was arranged by Josh Nelson and included the cool groove that Cathy loves to sing and sings so well. The understated rhythm section is spot on and Nelson's piano never disappoints. Nelson also arranged the Billy Joel song And So It Goes which, frankly, I like better than the original. Paul Jost contributes cool harmonica and vocals. Cathy sings it warmly, sadly, and beautifully.
Nelson final arrangement was Marvin Gaye's iconic God Save the Children. Cathy is joined by Mon David in a simply gorgeous arrangement and exquisite piano by Josh Nelson. The duet vocals are wonderful between these two excellent vocalists and Anthony Wilson's guitar punctuates with some fine touches.
Guitarist Anthony Wilson arranged the other half of the track list beginning with Cathy's original tune, What Are We Gonna Do. The arrangement and gentle, loving guitar from Wilson is so fine. Sweet bass lines from Edwin Livingston.
Wilson also arranged the Peter Gabriel/Thomas Newman tune Down to Earth. The song is from the Pixar animated film Wall-E. It is an environmentally aware song and the message goes well with the Marvin Gaye ecology sentiments. It swings nicely with great touches from guitar and piano.
Wilson's last arrangement was for the medley of Chet Powers Get Together, performed by the Youngbloods, and Steve Winwood's classic, Can't Find My Way Back Home. Good Lord, this is good stuff. Cathy's delivery of the Get Together section is much more widely paced and spaced. The instrumental bridge is amazing. Then Cathy transitions to the Winwood piece, one of my all-time favorite tunes. Cathy renders it flawlessly and emotionally.
Cathy Segal-Garcia is an extraordinary artist, at home with Jazz standards and Rock and Pop classics alike. And she interprets and performs them with soul, heart, and intelligence. The wonderful conclusion to Social Anthems, Volume 1 is knowing that a Volume Two is coming.