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'We like to call it edu-tainment': Jazz duo performs at Flyleaf Books

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Vocalist Kate McGarry and guitarist Keith Ganz perform at Flyleaf Books for the Flyleaf Music Series on Nov. 29, 2023. "For so, whether I'm up on Carnegie Hall, or if I'm in a big concert hall, or in a place like this, to me, it really is about connecting with the people in the room and knowing that everybody that the language of music has the ability to cut across all cultural conditioning and all kinds of things that are right to the heart," McGarry said.

On Wednesday, a room nestled near the back of Flyleaf Books was bustling with anticipation for a night of guitar, vocals and conversation. 

Paper lamps illuminated the room, casting a soft glow on the audience and the musicians for the night: critically-acclaimed artists Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz. 

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Performers Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz speak with Dr. Maximilian Owre, Executive Director of Carolina Public Humanities, at the Flyleaf Music Series on Nov. 29, 2023. "What we're trying to do is to learn about local artists, let them play, let them talk about their music more," Owre said. "And then get involved in sort of a dialogic conversation about their creative process."

The performance was the final event of this semester's Flyleaf Music Series, hosted by Carolina Public Humanities.

McGarry is a jazz vocalist and Ganz is a guitarist and producer. They have been musical collaborators and life partners for almost two decades, according to McGarry. 

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Guitarist Keith Ganz performs at Flyleaf Books for the Flyleaf Music Series on Nov. 29, 2023. "He has a way of orchestrating through the way he's playing the guitar that covers all the bases of drums, bass, and chordal harmony, and it really is extrordinary," McGarry said.

Their close relationship was clear in the performance, as they encouraged one another and bopped along to each other's tunes. 

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Vocalist Kate McGarry performs at Flyleaf Books for the Flyleaf Music Series on Nov. 29, 2023. "The best thing is just to create the feeling of, of a living room and that's what it feels the most important," McGarry said.

“He has a way of orchestrating through the way he's playing the guitar that covers all the bases of drums, bass and chordal harmony, and it really is extraordinary,” McGarry said in an audience interview after the performance.

McGarry and Ganz described their sound as a combination of 70s and 80s pop music and jazz. On guitar, Ganz incorporates bebop jazz styles — which began in the 1940s, emphasizing fast tempos and improvisation — from famous horn players like Charlie "Bird" Parker and Jim Baker. 

“So I learned from them like kind of different ways to create rhythm that you don't really hear on jazz guitar to do what we do,” Ganz said in the post-show audience interview. 

During the performance, he played the guitar in a seamless blend of strumming and picking chords that were in conversation with McGarry's improvisational singing.

McGarry grew up listening to jazz musicians such as the Mills Brothers and Nat King Cole, as well as Irish and Celtic music. She later received a degree in jazz and African American music studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Though they have performed at a number of large venues, she said that performing in a more intimate setting like Flyleaf was not too different.

“The best thing is just to create the feeling of a living room, and that's what feels most important,” McGarry said.

Their enthusiasm during the performance inspired audience members to sway in their seats with Ganz’s swing-style guitar and McGarry’s melodious scat-singing. 

Max Owre, the executive director of Carolina Public Humanities, said that performances like these and the music series are meant to help create experiences in the humanities for the public.

Carolina Public Humanities is a public outreach program through the UNC College of Arts and Sciences that aims to share faculty and scholarship with community members across the state.

Owre said the humanities give people insight into their own narratives and identities, as well as cultivate empathy for others and their stories.

“We like to call it edu-tainment," he said. "What we're trying to do is to learn about local artists, let them play, let them talk about their music more. And then get involved in sort of a dialogic conversation about their creative process.”

During the performance, McGarry and Ganz played their own compositions and reinterpreted those of others. Attendees were also encouraged to ask questions, make song requests and cheer on the musicians as they performed their set.

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At the end of the performance, audience members surrounded the artists, brimming with compliments and appreciation.

“So, whether I'm up in Carnegie Hall, or if I'm in a big concert hall, or in a place like this, to me, it really is about connecting with the people in the room and knowing that the language of music has the ability to cut across all cultural conditioning and all kinds of things that go right to the heart,” McGarry said. “And that it feels like that's what's really happening there.”

@preethikaratnam

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com