Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 14, No.4, 2015

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
Shai Maestro
Christine Jensen
Vincent Rehel
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: KAT EDMONSON


Two weeks following Kat Edmonson’s Club Soda concert, which was part of Montreal’s 2015 International Jazz Festival, I knew I had to see her again. Attending another concert at the same venue, I was once again seated right up front and had to leave before the completion of the encore, and realized, while exiting, that I was missing half the sound, on top of which the voice and instruments weren’t properly balanced. In the review that followed Kat’s summer concert, I was somewhat harsh – perhaps unfair -- as it concerned her voice in the upper register, and feared that I had done her wrong. Well, as fate would have it, I got -- to cite one of her most popular songs -- “Lucky." In October of the same year, Montreal’s All-Year Round Jazz Festival brought her back to play at l’Astral, now one of the city's most distinguished jazz venues.

Right from the outset, almost in the spirit of rebuff, the music obliged Edmonson to climb into the upper register where her voice indeed thins out, but this time round, it didn’t bother me in the least: it was as if she wanted to go there to lay bare her essential vulnerability, her fragility, and be that cork that refuses to go under in stormy seas.

All of Kat’s vocalese and writing are informed by her sensitivity. If some people learn to survive in the world by growing a carapace, Kat finds her way by baring herself to the world and then making her art equal to life’s hurts and lashes, which is why there is no one quite like her, no matter what the genre

Her playlist featured songs from her latest release, The Big Picture, as well as several of her own jazzy compositions. Confessing that she felt a bit shy that evening, she suddenly interrupted the concert, had an impromptu strategy session with her musicians, and announced that she felt like doing a couple of jazz standards, which she delivered in spades before returning to her playlist. Her terrific trio consisted of Al Street on guitar, multi-talented Bob Hart on bass, and the decibally considerate Aaron Thurston on percussion.

As a no frills singer who lets the music do the talking, Kat Edmonson is an acquired taste. She’s is at home in pop and even country, but is most comfortable in jazz, where I predict she’ll be spending more time both as a singer and composer. Listeners who can’t get enough of Kat are drawn to her preternaturally warm and round voice and its almost accidental quivers and undertones – in other words the person that is Kat, wholly and winsomely unedited, a singer/songwriter audiences are still discovering. Kat Edmonson is getting close to being at the top of her game, which is good news for sophisticated jazz aficionados.



For the 2015 Montreal International Jazz Festival, the very talented singer/songwriter Kat Edmonson did not perform the best song she has ever written (“Nobody Knows That”), which must have surprised and disappointed listeners who not only love the song but also its drop-dead gorgeous piano solo as it was performed during her memorable 2012 Austin City Limits concert. That solo, compared to the unremarkable studio version, is a lesson with a message: that if you work hard and long enough at something it will eventually bear fruit.

But “nobody” seemed to mind, which speaks to Kat Edmonson’s unforced anti-diva, winsome ways on stage, the first-rate quality of her songwriting, and ability to draw upon and combine diverse musical elements. For her jazz festival Club Soda concert, she opted for a ‘happy’ selection of songs, hitting all the right notes in what turned out to be a memorably intimate evening of sophisticated music that effortlessly and gracefully carves out a homey niche between jazz and pop.

Edmonson belongs to the category of stylish, throw-back, cross-over jazz and pop singers that include Jill Barber, Corinne Bailey-Rae and Holly Cole among others. They write most of their material that easily competes with the occasional covers they refashion in their own particular style.

Edmonson combines exceptional compositional skills with a very unique and affecting voice that is particularly strong in the mid range, but, it must be said, is unusually thin at the very high end of the scale (the last two or three notes just before falsetto kicks in). Since her voice is so right for what she does, and its contrast with her weaker voice a bit too noticeable, she should make a point of staying within herself, which might mean staying away from certain songs. Earlier in the day, I attended a press conference with Huey Lewis who said that one of the things he’s learned with age is to stay away from notes that he has no business singing. Let’s hope it doesn’t take Edmonson, who is only in her early 30s, as long as Huey to figure that out. And if we grant that this might be a managerial matter, it goes without saying that surrounding yourself with ‘yes’ people is never a good career move.

But aside from those occasional forays into the rough, Montrealers were treated to a superlative evening of music making that was as heart-felt as it was confessional: the singer draws deeply on her personal life, and quest to find footing in a world that keeps shifting or throwing up barriers to places she wants to enter but can’t. We don’t so much feel that she is holding back but rather that something is holding her back – perhaps shyness before she became comfortable on stage. But like all great artists, she is able to convert her self-doubts and insecurities, along with her wishful thinking and secret longings, into the passions that energize her creativity.

And it all begins with her very special, endearing voice that wraps itself around an audience like a wrap on a chilly day. In return, Edmonson’s essential fragility is such that we want to wrap ourselves around her, which is why we want her sets to never end.

Kat Edmonson is a huge talent still looking for and deserving of a much larger fan base. To her credit, she refuses to compromise her muse -- hasn’t given an inch to or incorporated the addictive rhythms of rap and hip-hop into her catalog. She is totally at home in and around the conservative side of jazz, and is steadfastly unapologetic in her love of melody, even corny melodies we can’t get enough of, such as in the song “Lucky.”

By staying true and placid blue to herself, Kat Edmonson reminds us that there will always be a place for well crafted, sincere, straight to the heart music regardless of how out of vogue is the genre.

And if you’re not already familiar with it, give a listen and then some to “Nobody Knows That” (Austin City Limits version), which is already, in my view, a modern classic that raises the bar none.


Photo © Hanna Donato



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