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"Best Jazz of 2012 for Female Singer and Top Vocal Jazz Album"
"...McCarthy's vocals often recalled the soft, strained desperation of another Cleveland vocalist, the great Jimmy Scott. The album is, in fact, something of an homage to Scott, ending with the McCarthy original, "Faith in Time (Jimmy's Song). …The singer closed with a barn-burning version of Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster" that left the crowd crowing for more and nicely "upset, in every way."
““…She plays her tender voice like a musician trying to get the best out of some favored, old horn.””
““...It’s delightful to hear music that plays so freely with the known and the unknown elements of jazz."”
““...Yet another voice in the retro-cool school—almost at times, as cool as Julie London, but with a serpentine edge".”
““…Nora McCarthy has a deep voice, with the timbre and range of Sarah Vaughan….she uses ever-so-subtle pitch-bending and straight tones and just a lovely touch of vibrato.””
““…Most of all, McCarthy and Sylvester are dedicated to using art as a means to elevate and celebrate the human spirit; their music is about joy and creativity, and cultivating the finer aspects of the human soul.””
““…Nora McCarthy delivers with the improvisational intuition of Betty Carter and the compassion of Billie Holiday. McCarthy tackles harmonically complex material of Thelonius Monk with relative ease then easily slips into a relaxed Latin style that owes much to Brazilian samba queen Astrud Gilberto.””
"…Nora McCarthy, the diva, one of the top singers who shaped the jazz vocal, a superb artist!"
““…Nora is a wonderfully focused musician, singer composer. Her original compositions are splendid examples of modern and traditional jazz song. I highly recommend her as a fellow artist.”“”
"…A good poet can tell a story with a minimum of text. So when Nora McCarthy tells the story of lies that have been "swept under the carpet / all scramble like roaches in the early morning light," she extends the idea in a couple of directions at once – with a kind of vocalese, aided by skittery piano bits. The presentation says far more than a couple of paragraphs could, that's for sure."
““...Nora McCarthy shines on “Do Something” – a groove piece whose melody and arrangement is reminiscent of a Horace Silver kind of energy; and on the hip lyrics to “In My Own Way” – an ‘electric’ medium groover. McCarthy’s contributions add a shimmering magnetism to the vocal pieces by Brandon. Other highlights include the soft Bossa “Friend In Need.” The album wraps up with the title song “Toward the Hill of Joy” – voice and piano, out of tempo, deep, contemplative and brilliant.””
““…McCarthy, who works in every setting from a bass and vocal duo to a twenty-piece orchestra, demonstrates that she is not one to simply serenade with the usual mix of standards.””
"…The ballad "Too Late Now" (Lerner/Lane) from her CD, Circle Completing, is a charmer. Reminding me very much of the late lamented Irene Kral, Nora provocatively sings this melancholy ballad in full throttle."
““...Her shaping of pitch often foregoes the fluid note-bending of the jazz singer in favor of the full press of a sculptor’s touch against viscous clay."”
"…McCarthy’s vocals are rich and subtle and laced with varying degrees of earthy blues and soulful phrasings."
““…Circle Completing is a moody suite that deals with the evolution of life, coming to a place of forgiveness, letting go, and ultimately moving on to the next level. "Nora's adventurous singing, the spontaneous interplay with John diMartino, and the unpredictability of the music result in the innovative duets being full of subtle surprises."”
““…McCarthy is a fearless singer who deftly refuses to be categorized as she explores personalized means for expressing ideas; she travels infrequently heard avenues for exploring thought and adapts vocal technique to fit the circumstances of her message." Jazz Improv NY, 2008”
“It’s easy to understand why this double-disc is titled Spirit Driven: the ACE Collective’s performances have a very spiritual quality. That spiritual outlook is as evident on “Cycle of Life,” “Masouc” and “Obeahman” as it is on “The Light of Truth’s High Noon Is Not For Tender Leaves.” The latter has a spirituality that recalls the late Abbey Lincoln, and McCarthy really soars with that Lincoln-ish mood."”
"McCarthy returns as a compositional collaborator and performing member of Sylvester’s AfroCaribbean Experimental (ACE) Collective, for that group’s hefty two-disc, nine-track, 87-minute album Spirit Driven. The sextet skips ably across the spectrum between ethereal free improv and tight, funky beats while often sticking with the typically dense harmonies of Sylvester and McCarthy’s writing, as well as pursuing unexpected paths within the rhythmic terrain of AfroCaribbean traditions. Nicks and Grohowski form a particularly strong backbone on “Construction No. 2” and “Construction No. 1”, which open the first and second discs, respectively. Both tunes are refreshingly accessible from an improvisational standpoint, beginning with relatively straight ahead grooves that gradually morph and reach farther outside the changes, with spontaneous yet swinging solos and McCarthy’s strong vocal presence. "