Give me that old-time jazz
Since her performance on the second season of the Fox hit show American Idol, Kat Edmonson has performed with Willie Nelson, opened for Smokey Robinson, toured with Boz Scaggs and headlined at the Taichung Jazz Festival in Taiwan. Self-released by her former label Convivium Records, Edmonson’s first album Take to the Sky debuted at number 21 on Billboard’s jazz charts and rose into the top 10 for jazz radio. Now, Kat Edmonson has become a darling of contemporary jazz music, working with producers such as Al Schmitt (Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Sam Cooke) and Phil Ramone (Bob Dylan, B.B. King and Paul McCartney) on her latest release.
With a refined talent, Kat Edmonson gives listeners dreamy pop melodies mingled in old time jazz tunes on her songwriting debut and sophomore album Way Down Low. Released by Spinnerette Records, the album proves this former American Idol contestant’s adept understanding of music and culture as she muses from a ragbag of artists including Joni Mitchell, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Billie Holiday.
Dessert first is a good policy for some and is certainly a satisfying beginning to this record. Like creamer in you morning coffee, “Lucky” is a light, dreamy, pop song performed with very few instruments, mainly a marimba and Edmonson’s coy and playful vocals. As saccharin as bubblegum and as shiny as a new penny found heads up, this song made its premiere on the Showtime seriesUnited States of Tara. It is also not surprising that it was used in a Serta mattress commercial. “Life is just a dream,” Edmonson sings in the chorus—the perfect soundtrack to a great day with visions of rainbows, marimba patters, and rolling riffs of “oohs” and whistling.
The album’s title comes out of the second track “I Don’t Know”, and put into context, the words “way down low” will make you blush no matter how uninhibited you may be. Seductive, yet bashful, this frisky song is filled with soft, folk guitar strums, sunny electric riffs and rumbling deep snare rhythms, all set against a rich strings backdrop. Here, Edmonson’s vocals are a fair match to Joni Mitchell on songs such as “California” and “Big Yellow Taxi”.
Edmonson disguises the Beach Boys’ “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” in slow, syncopated piano melodies. Muted cymbals and gentle sleigh bells make Edmonson’s version seem cloudy, but her sweet vocals lift the mood with a hint of charm and elegance. Covering a Beach Boys song is no doubt a bold move for any musician. Not only does Edmonson adopt this classic, but she seamlessly transfers the song from that branded Beach Boys-jangle to a smooth jazz ballad. Edmonson does this again with Fred and Doris Fisher’s “Whispering Grass”. The song has been performed by Ringo Starr, the Ink Spots and British actors Don Estelle and Windsor Davies, but Edmonson sings it with a deep melancholy. These two songs also seem to be unlikely covers for a vocal jazz musician, but Edmonson makes them her own.
Edmonson is smooth, enticing, and girlish, but on the album’s sixth track she gets a little giggly. “Champagne” is an effervescent, flirtatious song that not only promotes Edmonson’s rare vocal talent, but also her ability to perform. Reminiscent of more spirited vocal jazz songs, much like “Come On A-My House” sung by Rosemary Clooney, “Champagne” is like a stage act. Edmonson sings “I am singular and most off key / when bubbles get a hold of me” as if she is just a hair more than tipsy, but still just as adorable as can be.
From whimsical pop-like melodies to folk-tinged and saucy jazz songs and truly inspired covers, Kat Edmonson brings diversity to her second self-released album. Although mostly concentrated in old-fashioned jazz and pop-standard sounds, this album is not only for those who listen to a wide repertoire of jazz music, Way Down Low can also be recommended for fans or newer artists such as Feist, JayMay, and She and Him. In fact, if you are a Zooey Deschanel devotee, you will only find Edmonson to all the more quirky and adorable.
- Multiple songs Soundcloud