"Cathy Segal-Garcia is a national treasure. She is warm and witty, absolutely delightful."
She paired up with pianist Phillip Strange for their duo's performance in Osaka, Japan in December of 1992 and it now comes to us as Live in Japan, a wonderful 2-disc album capturing the warm and memorable performance.
From the playful introductions through an array of Christmas selections and Jazz standards to the joyous finale, Cathy and Phil entertain, enrich, and enchant. The chemistry is palpable and the results are perfection.
They begin Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields' I'm in the Mood for Love. Phillip Strange adds great soul and spice to the tune and Cathy, of course, just owns it. In addition to that great start-up piece, You've Changed (Carl Fischer, composer), More Than You Know (Vincent Youmans), Day by Day (Sammy Cahn), The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael) and Gershwin's I've Got Rhythm are included among the classics and standards—all done exceedingly well.
With all of those in the first set, Cathy includes her original piece, The Story. That comes from her 1992 album Song of the Heart. If you are not familiar with that album, find it. It featured Peter Erskine on drums, Phillip Strange on piano, and Marc Johnson on bass. You're not too late to the party. In the live version here, Strange takes flight in his piano solo and Cathy is a wonder. Seriously, nothing not to love here and throughout the whole album.
A sentimental favorite for Cathy and for the rest of us is Bob Hilliard and Sammy Fain's Alice in Wonderland. It is a true beauty and worthy of repeated plays. At least, I did.
Rodgers & Hart's This Can't Be Love is the swinging opening to the second set (and disc). Once more, it is proven just how fine a duo were Cathy and Phil. They follow with Jobim's Desafinado and it is another winner. The great bossa tune is treated with reverence and with great fun by these two. Terrific.
When You Upon a Star and Taking a Chance on Love follow and beautifully set the stage for Gershwin's How Long Has This Been Going On. With the two Gershwin tunes on the album, it becomes clear that Cathy (and Phil) are great interpreters of Gershwin, knowing when to stay close and when to depart from the originals. And the departures are splendid.
They conclude the concert in Osaka with a run of brilliant tunes, brilliantly performed by the duo. Errol Garner's Misty is warm and inviting and Billy Holiday's God Bless the Child is just as tender and soulful as Miss Holiday intended.
Cole Porter's Night and Day is given a grand workout by the duo. It is given a little swing and a whole lot of exquisite tonality. Seriously, the album just keeps getting better. Then comes the Bluesy/Gospelesque Sentimental Journey by Les Brown with its raucous crowd response and a bit of Asian chops from Phil. This as the second one to demand repeated replays. Phil just works this over and you just have to love the way Cathy plays with it.
The finale is Mel Torme's The Christmas Song. In the Christmas season of this live performance, it was a perfect ja ne for the Japanese audience. She delivers the song so wonderfully, and Phil accompanies so tenderly, that you find tears in your eyes. Good tears.
Almost thirty years after its recording, Live in Japan is worth the wait. Cathy Segal-Garcia and Phillip Strange are terrific together. The wit and wisdom, light and love, is thick on every track.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Cathy Segal-Garcia is a national, now international, treasure.