Review by J Hunter
It was one of those cases where “You had to be there” – and I wasn’t: No less than three people I eminently respect still speak in glowing terms about vocalist Kat Edmonson’s last-minute appearance on the small stage at the 2009 Tanglewood Jazz Festival. It was around that time that I received the Texas native’s debut disc Take to the Sky and fell flat in love with her knock-out reboots the Great American Songbook. So when MASS MoCA announced Edmonson would be part of their spring season, there was no way I was going to miss out this time! Six years is a long time, though, and things are definitely different with Edmonson, on more than a few levels.
Gone are the long red hair and the jazzbo wardrobe she wore at Tanglewood, replaced by brown hair in a pixie cut and simple short red dress, accessorized by chunky heels that (maybe) get her up to about 5’6”. Gone, too, is the reliance on old standards, either from bygone days or more recent times. Edmonson’s been letting her Inner Songwriter run the show for two discs, 2012’s Way Down Low and 2014’s The Big Picture, and her influences are many and varied: She described her composition “The Best” as “a cross between the Beatles – “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” thing – and the theme from ‘Mr. Belvedere’!” One thing that hasn’t changed is Edmonson’s undeniable ability to draw you into the worlds she creates and keep you utterly bewitched, hardly bothered and happily bewildered. And the concert version is just as powerful as the studio model.
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