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Take To The Sky (180 Gram Vinyl)
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"Kat Edmonson is the best new jazz singer I have heard in years, and I know she will be around for years to come. You have to hear her." -- Al Schmitt
"memorable and contagious." --NPR
"Edmonson might be the most promising American jazz singer to come along since Cassandra Wilson." --The Boston Globe
"Ms. Edmonson, from Austin, Tex., is a promising young jazz singer with a kittenish voice and an amiably relaxed style..." --The New York Times
"Equal parts Billie Holiday and Bjork, it is Edmonson's distinctive coyness that marks her as a vocalist of 2009, not merely a re-do of the 1930s." --All About Jazz
This strategy of mixing the classic with the modern is not a new approach for jazz vocalists. Cassandra Wilson, for example, has built an impressive career covering songs by compositional innovators from Miles Davis to Bob Dylan. Edmonson's particular stylistic approach is unique and satisfying for two reasons the high-quality arrangements by pianist Kevin Lovejoy and Edmonson's own quirky synthesis of nymph-like timbre and classic jazz phrasing.
Edmonson's first statement is bold. Though jazz singers have covered the Gershwin standard Summertime; ad nauseam, she shows why the classic song deserves just one more chance. Lovejoy begins with an ominous Brad Mehldau-inspired piano and bass ostinato in six-eight time. At the second verse, drummer J.J. Johnson (best known for his work with Eric Clapton and John Mayer) adds decisive buoyancy to the band with an Afro-Cuban groove pitting four beats against every three in the piano and bass. The repetitive nature of the instrumentation is the perfect backdrop to introduce Edmonson's stark, whispery vocal style.
Equal parts Billie Holiday and Bjork, it is Edmonson's distinctive coyness that marks her as a vocalist of 2009, not merely a re-do of the 1930s. For the most part, Edmonson holds true to the original melodies of the jazz standards, including Night and Day. Here, Lovejoy channels inspiration from soul music with a driving four-on-the-floor groove complete with tambourine. Edmonson's charming delivery successfully disguises the fact that the lyrics are more than 70 years old.
In fact, she is so convincing that one might easily mistake her cover of Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's Charade as one of Rufus Wainwright's latest laments.
Edmonson and Lovejoy can easily dress up classic jazz in modern pop clothing, but that clothing must be reversible. One of the most successful pop-to-jazz conversions on the album is Lovefool, a song best known for its performance by the Cardigans and subsequent inclusion on the 1996 Romeo and Juliet film soundtrack. Lovejoy's arrangement pairs Edmonson's voice with an austere brass accompaniment on each verse, making his switch to a tongue-in-cheek salsa montuno for the choruses a delightful surprise.
Edmonson is not one to pursue the vocal improvisations of the classic jazz singers, but it is her subtlety that is most appreciated here. The band, however, provides numerous tasteful moments of improvisational depth to the album. Reed player John Ellis plays a lovely, if brief, tenor saxophone solo on Edmonson's inspired bossa nova cover of the Cure's Just Like Heaven. Likewise, Ellis's bass clarinet musings on Charade prove the weighty jazz roots of the band members without forcing unnecessary harmonic complexity upon what is meant to be an understated aesthetic. One of the gems of the album is made possible by the communication between the trio of Lovejoy, Revis and Johnson: the standard Angel Eyes is captivating.
The only song that comes close to conventionality is Carole King's One Fine Day, heard here as a loping ballad. But, even then, it does not disappoint. The same is true of the soft ballad performance of John Lennon's (Just Like) Starting Over. Edmonson delivers each lyrical line with such sensitivity and thoughtfulness as to rival any classic jazz songstress. The final piece (a hidden track 10) is a pitch-perfect unaccompanied performance by Edmonson of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. --Holly Holmes --All About Jazz
Kat Edmonson may be a young jazz singer, but she is already a confident interpreter of song. Her debut album, "Take to the Sky," brims with originality. But first her pipes. It is tempting to compare her to other young chanteuses like Madeleine Peyroux, but Edmonson, who lives in Austin, Texas, sounds more like Blossom Dearie to these ears. Though her voice isn't as high and chirpy as Dearie's, the intonations and enunciations are remarkably similiar. More striking, though, is how Edmonson approaches her songbook. Employing a series of descending minor chords, her arrangment of "Summertime" is ominous and dark - not at all like a typical summer day. "Just One of Those Things" is done in half-time with a backbeat, which makes the vocals seem all the faster. Edmonson goes beyond the standards, too. She turns the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" into a slow bossa nova, the Cardigans' "Lovefool" into a rumba, and John Lennon's "(Just Like) Starting Over" into a breathy ballad. For all the inspired arrangements, the piece de resistance is the hidden track, a gorgeous a capella rendering of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most." That one really is just like heaven. --Steve Greenlee --The Boston Globe
Any young jazz singer that feels comfortable tackling The Cure or The Cardigans alongside Cole Porter and George Gershwin is OK in our book. And for 25-year-old Austin, TX artist Kat Edmonson that's just half the story. Described as "memorable and contagious" by NPR, the waif-like singer possesses a voice that matches her appearance with a lighter-than-air coolness that emphasizes interpretive phrasing over passionate power. The effect is startlingly simple and matter-of-fact...and disarmingly appealing. In fact, as she hits the higher notes in songs like "The Very Thought of You", a song that doesn't unfortunately appear on her striking debut album Take To The Sky, there's a noticeable fragility to her tone that actually makes her voice even more intimate. Edmonson is not the first vocalist to be compared to Billie Holiday, and in some respects the analogy is a moot point, but there is that particularly mellow quality and the ability to just bend and instinctively play with the note like a horn player that does harken back to some of the more notable singers like Holiday or Peggy Lee. Recorded simply and economically, Edmonson had the smarts to hand the album's mixing over to Al Schmitt, the veteran multi-Grammy winning soundman who engineered Steely Dan's classic Aja and worked with Frank Sinatra and Sam Cooke. Sky's sound is rich but sparse and uncluttered, allowing Edmonson the necessary space to let her notes hang unfettered. Even on tracks that require a fuller sound, like her inspired take on The Cure's "Just Like Heaven", the pace is languid and serene with the subtle rhythms the perfect complement to her whispery, wispy vocals. Recommended. --Direct Current
Top customer reviews
Here's your chance! With a noir sensibility and swinging, jazzy band, femme fatale Kat Edmonson brings those smokey, sexy, after hours settings to life with all the wonderful sound range and quality of today's best technology.
A win-win for anyone who appreciates great music of the past or new artists of today.
Prime example: her cover of the Cure's "Just like heaven". Listening to this delightfully breezy, samba-esque version of the eighties Goth hit is infectious and seductive, and makes you wonder if hers wasn't the original, written decades ago, and only discovered and recorded years later by a band who shared the melancholy longing of the divine Miss Edmonson! Pure genius!
Most recent customer reviews
But no one is like Kat.