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Music Review: Kat Edmonson – Take To the Sky

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Austin, the self-professed "Live Music Capital of the World," has a surprise in store. Well known for folk and blues, there's a new rising star in the Capital City in the genre of jazz — traditional, vocal jazz. Her name is Kat Edmonson, and with her new CD, she is inviting you to Take To the Sky.

Readers may have heard Edmonson's voice before, as she appeared on American Idol in 2002 singing Peggy Lee's "Fever." Unfortunately, she was not to advance.

On her debut album, Edmonson's rich, smoky voice is accompanied by skillful musicians blended together by engineer Al Schmitt. Schmitt is a veteran of the 1960s who accumulated 19 Grammys and has worked with Diana Krall, Steely Dan, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra among many others. Possibly as a result of his involvement, the work is accomplished and beyond the skill and range of most debut albums on regional labels.

Edmonson tackles jazz standards and reinvents pop/rock hits, blending jazz with pop and bossa-nova in a captivating gumbo full of surprises. The disc starts off with staccato piano chords that quickly reveal the Gershwin classic "Summertime," complete with horn solo and ending in a surprise coda quoting from the "Feeling Good" popularized by Nina Simone. The pace picks up with an energetic cover of "Night and Day," played with passion and delivered with sultry sass.

Edmonson makes modern pop/rock material her own, with songs and arrangements that aren't recognized until the vocals begin. First is slow bossa nova version of "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure, sung rather like a lullaby. "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a pop/rock hit from the early 1980s, becomes a very slow jazz ballad that woos the listener and sounds nothing like the original — and which serves as an inventive, worthy remake.

Throughout, Edmonson's voice handles the range of the songs and delivers emotion in a soothing, pasty smoke of crooning. Grab a martini and enjoy!

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