“More Than You Know”

“More Than You Know”

Liner Notes from Maggie’s First Recording

by Jazz Journalist Ken Franckling

Cities and towns, big and small, have hidden musical treasures. They’re the immensely talented players and singers laboring just beyond the warm glow of the spotlight. Without skipping a beat, they make the music they love—while waiting for that beam to shift their way. In a city like Boston, home to renowned Symphony Hall, world-class rock bands, and students and graduates of the finest college-level classical and jazz programs, there is formidable competition everywhere you turn.

Singer Maggie Galloway has been on the Boston club scene for the better part of two decades. And it appears her time has arrived for more serious and lasting attention from lovers of the American Songbook and the grand vocal tradition.

She’s blessed with a pure voice that received substantial classical training during high school and college in her native Michigan. And she has wide musical taste born of hometown community theatre, a teenage love of folk music, and an early flirtation with rock and Top 40 pop singing.

This debut recording is energized by Maggie’s deep jazz feel. It’s in her phrasing, timing, and an absolute love of spontaneity and interplay with musicians she trusts and knows well. From regular performances in and around Boston—most often at Top of the Hub (a restaurant and nightspot on the 52nd floor of the landmark Prudential Center) — she has honed another important skill. It is the ability and responsibility to take well-known tunes and make them your own, to reveal new facets for each listener, as well as presenting lesser-known but equally strong material that deserves more attention. Maggie Galloway does this. In fact, she does it very well.

Her musical partners come to her band and into the studio with strong credentials. Pianist Jeff Auger worked for several years with the Boston-based jazz vocal ensemble The Ritz and now leads his own trio. Bassist Bob Nieske, a veteran of the Jimmy Giuffre quartet, leads his own progressive jazz band, Wolf Soup, whose members include big-toned saxophonist Jim Cameron. Rick Considine, one of Boston’s tasty and empathetic time-keepers, is on drums. It is clear from the opening measures that this is a band whose members truly enjoy drawing new elements out of a song—and each other. “I really believe in the conversation of the music, in letting everyone have their say,” Maggie says. It’s like a dinner party. Sometimes, you’re all chatting at once; other times one person has something to say. Each of us on the bandstand, or in this case, in the studio, is telling the story in a way in which we are seeing and hearing and feeling something and connecting at that time.”

On the opener, My Favorite Things, from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” they changed the tempo from 3/4 waltz time to a straight 4/4 beat. Its funky, New Orleans feel lets Maggie and the band accentuate its vivid “whiskers on kittens” lyrics. Conversely, they take Billy Strayhorn’s gorgeous ballad, Daydream into waltz time to accentuate its dreamy feel.

For this listener, the real gem is Baltimore Oriole, an under recorded 1930s blues by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. It’s a third person parable about a songbird on a fling with a two-timing blackbird who singes her wings. Jeff’s fluttering sounds on the piano and Bob’s bass touches add to the mood. This is one of many Carmichael tunes that never escaped the formidable shadow of Stardust. It is refreshing to hear such an exquisite version.

Boogie Blues, first recorded by Anita O’ Day with Gene Krupa’s orchestra, changes the pace dramatically. Cameron’s spacious tenor work turns the haunting Lazy Afternoon into a two-voice conversation. Maggie says the imagery in the tune reminds her of Midwestern childhood, playing in the grassy fields in Flushing, Mich., looking at the clouds wander across the vast summer sky. The Trolley Song, written for Broadway’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” has been a vehicle for jazz singers ranging from Mel Torme’ to Betty Carter. This arrangement offers a whirling, dizzying pace that Maggie says reflects, “the feeling you get when you meet someone you’re instantly attracted to.”

The great lyrics and emotions continue as the band clicks on Moonlight in Vermont, Lullaby of the Leaves (enhanced with another tempo shift away from standard treatment), The Very Thought of You, This Can’t Be Love, and More Than You Know, a tune she learned from hearing a Barbra Streisand version many years ago.

Maggie sees I’m Just a Lucky So and So as a personal statement. “I’m far from rich,” she says, “but I’ve got a great husband, a car with CD player and a cassette player, and great musicians to play with.” In other words, life is good.

“A lot f these tunes have to do with your age and where you are in life. There was a time when I couldn’t sing some of them. Ten or 15 years ago I might have thought they were corny or silly,” Maggie says. “Now I just try to understand the song. The love of music—all music—is what motivates me more than anything else.” More than you know.

—Ken Franckling

Ken Franckling writes for UPI, JazzTimes, DownBeat, and other publications.

“More Than You Know” was recorded and mixed at PBS Studios, Westwood, MA USA; Engineer: Peter Kontrimas