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Songs of Love and Devotion From Lizz Wright, Gregory Porter, Kate McGarry and More

Jesse Kitt/Courtesy of the artist
Lizz Wright

Lizz Wright, “Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You”

Lizz Wright delivered a gift last year in the form of her sixth album, Grace. A statement of extravagant self-assurance, it’s also an American affirmation, and in many ways a balm. 


One highlight of the album is her version of “Seems I'm Never Tired Lovin’ You,” a romantic devotional written by Carolyn Franklin (Aretha’s younger sister) and closely associated with Nina Simone. The video above is a live performance of the tune, which gives some sense of what audiences have in store at the Appel Room on Valentine’s Day, when Wright appears as part of the American Songbook series.

Kate McGarry, “My Funny Valentine”

Kate McGarry wasn’t kidding when she named her new album The Subject Tonight is Love. A product of her working trio with guitarist Keith Ganz and keyboardist Gary Versace, it’s a reflection on the many states of love, from infatuation to disillusion. For our purposes here, the obvious choice is “My Funny Valentine,” which McGarry imbues with tender familiarity and no small amount of soul. Ganz, her husband, contributes a lovely solo; Versace provides a music-box lilt on Fender Rhodes. (The trio performs on Valentine’s Day at Jazz Standard.)

Gregory Porter, “For All We Know”


I’ve written before in this space about Nat King Cole & Me, the suave recent album by Gregory Porter. The album features its share of love songs, as you’d expect — none more sumptuous than “For All We Know,” with Porter’s baritone sailing over an orchestration by Vince Mendoza. You hear all of the pain and longing in the song, as its singer wishes for the present moment to last forever. Porter won’t be singing with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, for his annual Valentine’s Day concert, but you can bet that he packs the emotion into this song.

Nels Cline with Yuka C. Honda, “Beautiful Love”


The guitarist Nels Cline and the keyboardist Yuka Honda are partners by marriage — and partners in music, whenever they can make it happen. They’ll spend Valentine’s evening at National Sawdust, performing a concert in the guise of Cup, an experimental duo. (The vocalist Theo Bleckmann is on the hook for an opening set, and maybe some collaboration.) I’m not aware of any available music by Cup, so here is a track from Cline’s most recent album, aptly titled Lovers. Honda is among the musicians in his ensemble; the song, of course, is “Beautiful Love.”

Sheila Jordan, “Falling in Love with Love”


Finally, a blast from the past from someone who ceaselessly inhabits the present. Sheila Jordan, the 2012 NEA Jazz Master, has stretched out on many a love song in her time. This track is a straightforward but no less sublime version of “Falling in Love with Love,” a show tune by Rodgers and Hart. It comes from Portrait of Sheila, which was Jordan’s debut in 1963, and was reissued on vinyl by Blue Note a couple of years ago. Keep it in mind for Jordan’s gig at Mezzrow on Valentine’s Day, with John DiMartino on piano and Harvie S on bass.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.