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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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