Here in Austin…

…we get a decent share of American Songbook performers to stop in for a visit.

Given our claim as the “Live Music Capital of the World” it’s never enough to suit me, but we have seen Steve Tyrell, Natalie Cole, John Pizzarelli, Michael Feinstein, Bobby Caldwell, Joe Leo Bwarie, Nikki Yanofsky and others make the scene of late … and even the likes of Bennett and Bublé take to the Austin stage occasionally.

With all that focus outward on visiting artists, I’m a little late to the game for a young local talent that is making a big career push these days … Kat Edmonson just “kickstarted” out a second album (Way Down Low ) of original material that is getting a bunch of positive press and has her splitting time between Austin and NYC.

Take to the Sky…

Though happy for her success with her original work, I’m drawn to  Kat’s 2009 debut album — Take to the Sky. I find Ms. Edmonson’s distinctive reinterpretations of classics from Cole Porter, Gershwin and Mancini/Mercer among others on this Convivium release intriguing.

When I say reinterpreted…

…that’s exactly what I mean. Kat re-envisions these numbers from interesting and unexpected angles, and ends up delivering renditions that are both wondrously pleasing and challenging.

Whether an uptempo (near R&B) take at Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” or an Afro-beatnik backbeat version of “Charade” (that I know has both Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer smiling) … it’s Kat’s ultra distinctive vocal style that takes this material beyond “innovative” jazz re-versioning to something truly special.

KE’s vocal style elicits comparisons to the typical bluesy, jazzy, sultry singers like Billie Holliday, Madeleine Peyroux … even Blossom Dearie, but I think Kat’s style is unique. More playful than Billie’s typical style I think the closest approximation I can derive is a combination of Stacy Kent and Julie London … with echoes of the puckish side of Ms. Holliday.

Sometimes little more than a whisper, always sultry smooth Kat’s reedy voice can carry vastly different emotional elements … at once torch tinged with a “quarter to three” jazz club ambiance and then those breathy intonations delivering a coy sweetness that is anything but blue.

More than a standards compilation…

… Take to the Sky  shows off Kat’s interpretive dexterity beyond the standards with a cluster of genre numbers that are not typical American Songbook fare. Starting with a silky bluesy, slow tempo jazz trio version of Carol King’s Chiffon’s hit – “One Fine Day”, then on to John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” as a late night/early morning smokey jazz club torch number; and believe it or not a Tin Pan Ally/salsa delivery of “Lovefool” from the Cardigans and a sultry-cool bossa nova rendition of “Just Like Heaven” from The Cure!

© Donald R. Winslow

But it’s the standards on this LP that kick it for me. Kat comes out of the chute with a metronome piano beat interpretation of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess hit “Summertime” … her sultry vocal style in full view here with a wonderful muted trombone solo weave throughout the back half of the number … and ending with a cool outro of “Feeling Good” from Anthony Newly … “birds flying high…” Very nice.

The aforementioned “Night and Day” and “Charade” classics are joined by a softened persistent bass/piano beat “Angel Eyes” that exposes the Julie London side of KE … though with a more playful than mournful tone. Then it’s back to Cole Porter for “Just One Of Those Things” … again driven by Kevin Lovejoy’s piano striking out the beat in metronome fashion.

If you’re game to Take to the Sky with Kat Edmonson (which I strongly recommend), be sure to snag the 10 track version of the LP as you don’t want to miss the bonus track.  Kat sings a stunning, sweet-sad a cappella version of the 1955 semi-classic “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” …  pure.

Take to the Sky Track List…
(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

1. Summertime 5:12 +++ cool “Feeling Good” outro
2. Just Like Heaven 4:12 +++ sweet Kat vocals tripping along a bossa nova beat
3. Night and Day 3:52 ++++ Cool R&B styling very nice piano from Mr. Lovejoy
4. Charade 4:19 +++ like the soundtrack to Hatari! with a cool beatnik ambiance … wow
5. Lovefool 4:03 ++ salsa chorus mashup
6. Angel Eyes 5:12 +++ Kat channels Julie London
7. Just One of Those Things 2:29 ++ Lovejoy’s piano drives the beat
8. One Fine Day 4:58 +++ slow and bluesy trombone goodness… got Kat class, and got Kat style!
9. (Just Like) Starting Over 5:08 ++ Lennon like I never imagined …
10. Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most (Bonus Track) 3:42 +++… pure Kat

 

 

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  • While I do not have this album…yet, I do have her latest one which I like a lot. It introduced me to another song called Whispering Trees which I later found out is from the Inkspots. She’s very talented.

    • vs_guy

      She is indeed … especially her ability to “re-vision” songs and deliver them in her distinctive style.

      Thanks for stopping by Stefanie!

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