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Jazz Singer Kat Edmonson

Young jazz vocalist Kat Edmonson, with a voice all her own and a new album “Way Down Low.”

Kat Edmonson (Todd Wolfson)

Kat Edmonson (Todd Wolfson)

Kat Edmondson straight up failed on American Idol.  Didn’t make it past the top 48.  But this singer’s got grit.  She went back home, dug in, honed her chops, and found her way. Reached deep into her memory of jazz greats and sophisticated pop thrills.  Took a voice with no formal training and stretched it all over the map.

Now she’s being compared to the greats.  Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington.  Billy Holiday.

This hour, On Point:  the singer who would not quit.  Kat Edmondson and her latest, “Way Down Low.”

 -Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Kat Edmonson, a singer/songwriter, her new album is Way Down Low.

Steve Greenlee, is the Boston Globe’s features editor, jazz critic, and beer columnist. He first wrote about Kat Edmonson for the newspaper here.

From Tom’s Reading List

NPR “A lot of the songs on Kat Edmonson’s new album, Way Down Low, have a timeless sound, due in part to her own timeless-sounding voice. But she isn’t above revealing her influences: The song “Champagne,” she admits, was crafted with a particular American songsmith in mind.”

The New York Times “Kat Edmonson has a honeyed, light-gauge, faintly crinkly singing voice, an instrument of self-containment and reflection. Don’t let its modest embroidery mislead you. On “Way Down Low,” her second self-released album, Ms. Edmonson presents a vision of her art that’s almost steely in its resolve, with an equal foothold in jazz, cabaret and vintage cosmopolitanism pop. Fresh as a spring bouquet, it’s also a purposeful introduction to Ms. Edmonson the songwriter, intuitive about melody and handy with a turn of phrase.”

Austin Chronicle “There’s a delicateness to the singing of Kat Edmonson that almost demands the label “chanteuse,” breathy and ephemeral, but with an edge gilded by her twang.”

Video: Way Down Low Live

Here’s Edmonson live at Austin’s Paramount Theater, Friday the 13th 2012.

Video: Starting Over

See Edmonson sing a jazz version of John Lennon’s classic “Starting Over” at Austin’s Elephant Room club.

Playlist

What Else Can I Do
I’m Not In Love
Whispering Grass
Summertime
Summertime (Billie Holiday)
Lucky (LIVE IN STUDIO)
Hopelessly Blue
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Champagne
I Don’t Know (LIVE IN STUDIO)
I Don’t Know (Reprise)
Long Way Home (w/ Lyle Lovett)
This Was The One

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • U.S. Vet.

    I’d like to know what Kat Edmonson thinks about Obama’s S.O.P.A. Act.

    • Brett

      Um, aside from your one-trick-pony routine, don’t you know that Lamar Smith (R) from Texas introduced that bill? 

      • Eliezer Pennywhistler

          Yeah.  Sure Lamar Smith did, Brett.  But John McCain and both of Tennessee’s
        Repub Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, were Senate sponsors of the
        bill.

        Ergo it is Mr. Obama’s act.

        You should learn to follow politics better …. like our alleged veteran does.

        • Brett

          ???
          Lamar Smith introduced SOPA in the House; Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) introduced PIPA earlier in the Senate. As far as I know the Bill was not signed by Obama. He probably isn’t going to, either, considering his support from various folks in entertainment and media, so to speak (although he has made statements about the need to combat online piracy (which the Bill doesn’t actually address; but, I’ll admit, it is complicated, as all political back-and-forths, as it were, are). However, it has been given what would be considered bipartisan support by various members of Congress, from what I understand. As far as I know, it isn’t law. I haven’t followed what’s been happening for a while, though…maybe you know something the rest of us don’t? Many political leaders have distanced themselves from the bills introduced in both the House and Senate because of so-called “black outs.”   

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

            Granted Al Franken is not exactly “Hollywood”, he IS one of the Senate bill’s co-sponsors.

          • Brett

            Huh boy. First, I didn’t say anything about Hollywood; and, so far, you’ve mentioned McCain (McCain by the way has used songs during his election campaign events without asking permission from the artists), Lamar Alexander, and now Franken, none of whom are responsible for the drafting of that Bill. You see, the problem with the Bill, as some see it, is that it won’t really address the issues of piracy but will open up a legal quagmire regarding web content, various news organizations using video clips from other news organizations, hip-hop artists doing sampling, Youtube videos, etc. Many political figures who’ve supported the Bill (remember, there’s a difference between support and sponsoring) have now backed away from it because of the way media has given a thumbs down regarding the Bill.

            Do yourself a favor and do a little research, please. You can argue whether or not the Bill will address what it intends to address; that’s valid, but you don’t seem to be grasping that part of it.

            You know, we have enough idiots taking potshots on this forum. We don’t really need another one. So, please rise to a certain level of engagement, if you will.

            P.S.-I’m all for protecting intellectual property; nothing is worse in my opinion than stealing someone’s creative ideas; and, I’m a musician and writer, so I am especially interested in laws that would protect such property. I just don’t think this Bill would do that if passed into law (my opinion). 

          • Brett

            Also, again, SOPA is the name of the Bill introduced in the House; the one in the Senate is known as PIPA 

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

             Who cares?

          • Brett

            Apparently you don’t care enough to know what you’re talking about, but that doesn’t seem to stop you. Babble on, there…

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

            I didn’t say you mentioned Hollywood. 

            I didn’t say McCain or Franken were “responsible for the drafting of that Bill.”

            I said they are co-sponsors.  Which they are.

          • Brett

            The segment on  the three stooges was a couple of days ago. 

          • Brett

            Yeah, you don’t have to draft a bill to sponsor, true. But, neither McCain nor Franken sponsored the Bill in question.  

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

             http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_US_Congresspersons_who_support_or_oppose_SOPA/PIPA

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

             Ye gods. 

            For someone who came here to complain that someone else is a “one-trick pony”, you should look into a mirror, son.

          • Kevin

            Wow. Funny how this turned into a political debate (though I can see some parallels).  I think if we focus more on the topic at hand….Kat Edmunson, and her amazing accomplishments. That would better reward her for the FREE, and AWESOME performance she gave us today!

            Kevin

          • Brett

            I hear you, Kevin. Congrats on the award of the day for sanctimoniousness, as well as the hypocrite award of the day. 

            You really didn’t provide much of a comment on the topic either, did you. 

        • Anonymous

          No, the sponsors of the bill are ones who are responsible for the laws or acts.
          Congress makes the laws, not Presidents.
          Presidents sign legislation into laws.
          What Brett is on about is how this guy uses every comment to politicize even non-political shows. It’s pretty lame.   

          • Brett

            Thanks!

        • http://www.facebook.com/arthursc Arthur Cohen

           Well, that’s just plain stupid, and really irrelevant anyway to this comment thread. We’re talking about Kat, not your silly twaddle. Contribute to that conversation of just go away.

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

             I find it odd that you would comment to me – who merely continued Brett’s thought – and not Brett, and not “U.S. Vet.”, who is the source of your problem here.

            By the way, while “we’re talking about Kat”, I notice that you have not contributed one word to the conversation about Kat.  Not even silly twaddle.

          • Brett

            No, you didn’t continue my thought at all. For someone who peruses literary sites, you…anyway, you must be looking at the pictures. ;-)

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

             I’ll be damned if I will continue this silly conversation, but ….. as you specified that the guy who introduced the House bill was a Republican (to refute the notion of  “Obama’s SOPA bill”, I merely added some Republican sponsors of the Senate bill.

            Thus continuing your little thought.

            No idea at all what “literary sites” or “pictures” you are referring to ….. but don’t feel the need to explain, as i don’t care.

          • Brett

            I’ll bet you eat at Denny’s a lot. Their menus have pictures.

          • Brett

            Also, did YOU notice that you’ve NOT “contributed anything about Kat either????!?!?!

          • Eliezer Pennywhistler

            Yes, I noticed that.

            Then again, I didn’t post “We’re talking about Kat, not your silly twaddle.”

            Which is, in fact, YOUR silly twaddle.

            And I happen to think that my comment that he hadn’t posted anything about Kat was appropriate to the person who posted “Contribute to that conversation of just go away.”

            When you say asshat things, you get to be called an asshat.

          • Brett

            Who are you talking to? Are you on drugs?

          • Brett

            YOu accused him of not contributing anything about the singer, yet you didn’t either…never mind

    • Eliezer Pennywhistler

      Yeha sure Lamar Smith did, Brett.  But John McCain and both of Tennessee’s Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker were Senate sponsors of the bill.

      Ergo it is Mr. Obama’s act.

      You should learn to follow politics better …. like our alleged veteran does.

  • Brett

    I am not familiar with Ms. Edmonson’s singing. 

    As sort of stated above, her voice has a wispy, breathy quality to it. I can hear influences of Billie Holiday (the later years, with no vibrato), but I can also hear a bit of the coquettish sounds that came from Blossom Dearie (whose voice I grew to love). As much as Edmonson’s stage presence doesn’t seem  playful, as Dearie’s was at times (not to mention Dearie was a good pianist), she does have a slightly playful quality to her sound that is mixed with something that seems introspective, as if she’s daydreaming.  

    I usually like voices that one has to warm up to, and Edmonson’s voice seems to have that quality. I would not use the word “ephemeral;” I would use the word ethereal. At any rate, I was intrigued enough that I will give her more of a listen. 

    The interpretation of Lennon’s “Starting Over” is faithful, and it reminds me that he was a fine pop songwriter. The way the different sections fit together is pretty cool, yet it’s a fairly simple song (structurally speaking). He had a way of expressing a certain romantic sentiment without seeming sentimental. 

  • Stillin

    That photograph is awesome.

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me of Stacey Kent! Beautiful!

  • Michael Taney

    What about Blossom Dearie.  FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blossom_Dearie

    • Michael Taney

       Margrete Blossom Dearie (April 28, 1924 – February 7, 2009[1]) was an American jazz singer and pianist, often performing in the bebop genre and remembered for her girlish voice.[2] 

  • Kathybeck3

    Blossom Dearie was the first.  Stacey Kent and Madeline Peryeaux followed.

    • Anonymous

      I agree, she sounds a lot like Blossom Dearie and Madeline Peryeaux.  She’s very good, but I wonder why this kind of sound is so prevalent of late. Not hearing to many Anita O’Day’s out there.

      • Brett

        Yeah, Madeleine Peyroux; thanks, man. I haven’t listened to her for a couple of years…I’ve got a CD of hers somewhere around here…jeffe, you know music really well. 

  • barbara

    Absolutely amazing voice, love her sultry serenade, she has more than what American Idol judges can identify with. Look forward to hearing more of her music!

  • Gep_sc

    Reminds me a little of Janis Joplin.

    • Anonymous

      Janis Joplin?

    • Eliezer Pennywhistler

       In what way?

  • Terry Tree Tree

    WHY did you say she FAILED on American Idol?  You don’t even FAIL, when you are eliminated in the first local judging! 
       The WINNERS are WINNERS, but there are truly NO losers, because someone thought they had talent enough to try!

  • Krafsig

    I was going to ad that the closest similarity definitely was to Stacey Kent, which from me is high praise indeed.  I’m reminded of a CBS Sunday Morning profile of Kent wherein Charles Osgood (I believe) mentioned “the smile in her voice”. 

  • Kobi Tirey

    Kat is blowing me away. It’s rare these days to hear a singer care about shaping every syllable and sound, but some modern singers she reminds me of in that respect are Feist and St. Vincent. Is there a reason that kind of craftsmanship in more prevalent today for female singers than male? I feel like I’ll be ripping Kat’s CDs right before I gift them to my parents, hopefully for a while to come. 

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Kat definitely has talent!  Evidently NOT the talent that American Idol judges wanted?

    • Rex

      American Idol pushes radio-friendly pop. Getting denied by Randy Jackson was a gift for her and all of us. She made it to where she is by working hard, not by forced overexposure and a free record deal.

  • Rex

    The closest current singer she comes close to is Zooey Deschanel.

  • Jim

    i have to say the same person doing the conversation and singing sounds like two different people. the person singing is quite, quite sophisticated, mature and smoothing. the song is really really good, natural and charming.

    when she speaks, she sounds like someone under 20… full of youth as Tom said.

    Kat, please keep up with your great work. i really enjoy your music.

  • Tom in Burlington

    Hope Sandoval meets Peggy Lee. I think the thing that is really appealing about Kat’s voice is its perfect evocation of the past. In these complex modern times it makes a person pause in his tracks to hear such beautiful renditions of jazz standards both classical and “instant classical.” Amazing voice, Kat.

    • Anonymous

      I can hear a little of Hope Sandoval, but Hope is doing something very different to what Kat is. I’m more into Hope. 

  • Chris

    It just goes to show how absolutely unnecessary the RIAA and
    the big media companies are in this digital age.  One person with talent and dedication, and
    some crowd-source funding, can be successful and bring their vision to
    fruition.

  • Chris

    Tom,

    I work a night job and get up quite late.  At 11:02am a groggy me woke-up and fumbled to turn on the radio.  The first thing I heard was that voice, and I sat bolt right up in bed and thought “MY GOD! WHO THE HELL IS THIS SINGING!?? IT IS UNBELIEVABLE!”  Kat, you voice is mesmerizing. My world just got a little bit brighter.  Thank you.         

  • L armond

    Sweet.  Conversational songs. 

  • barbara

    So glad she kept going, she reminds me of when I grew up listening to my aunts playing their music!

  • Drew You Too

    I LOVE your voice Kat Edmonson! It’s like a silk sheet blowing softly in the breeze. I’m glad American Idol was foolish enough not to run you all the way through the grinder. Yourself and your craft are all the better for it.

  • Trisha

    Kat’s a great combination of Blossom Dearie w/ a touch of Joanie Mitchell. Thanks for sharing this great program!

  • nay-saying

    This artist is techinically accomplished, but here’s a criticism..

    This is whitewashed bourgeois nostalgia. A convincing imitation carefully programmed to lure in the audience with a pretty young face and lull them into a hazy complacency with an imaginary world.

    Then again, isn’t that what lullabies are all about? I liked the “Way Down Low”… less white tablecloth pretensions.

    • Charlesphillips3

      Don’t wait long to hear her earlier material. Order it up & be pleasantly surprised. She did “new school” before she did this new “old school” album.

  • Paul

    I’m surpised nobody has compared her to Joni Mitchell yet.
    Talk about singing like an instrument.

    • Robert

      One of the songs on Tom’s show today sounded to my ear like a studied impression of Joni, even to the strumming style of the accompanying guitar.  Another, like a studied impression of Astrud Gilberto- simple, straight, delivery, with no vibrato, accomanied with the same style of Stan Getz’s sax. I don’t know about her originality as much as her pitch perfect phrasing of other artists in a chameleon-like versatility.

  • Cheryl

    I was thinking mostly jazz singers already mentioned at first, but then the ghost of Joanie came through

  • Michael

    Just goes to show “American Idol” ain’t what it’s all about. Such a soothing & gentle voice. Absolutely beautiful!

  • Edgar Lawton

    I was a fan of Billy Holliday and once heard her at Storyville in Boston.  Kat reminds me of the early Holliday, songs like I’m Yours or Sophisticated Lady.  Edgar H Lawton Jr

  • Matt Johnson

     Thanks, the voice got me. Reminds me of how I felt when I first heard Joni Mitchell.

  • Simone le Coutre

    Wonderful show.    That Kat is so good!

    Re:  male singers today and how articulate or inarticulate they are — I thought immediately of George Stass (go to youtube and give him a listen), and how much I love to listen to his voice.  Tom, I hope you’ll listen and get him on your show….he’s a NYC performer, living in Astoria, Queens, and has a beautiful personality as well as a real talent for singing/composing.  

    • Eliezer Pennywhistler

      NYC is more than 3000 miles away …..

  • Charlesphillips3

    On a visit to Austin ten years ago, I was taken to the Elephant Club to hear “local talent.” Kat was on stage that night. I was convinced that night that Austin had the best live music in the world. I moved there.78704-ever. Thanks Kat. 
                                       

  • Charlesphillips3

    She played an “in studio” last week on KUT (Austins NPR station)Listen here:   
    http://kut.org/2012/04/kat-edmonson-in-studio-1a-41212-1pm/

  • Charlesphillips3

    http://kut.org/2012/03/kut-at-the-four-seasons-kat-edmonson/    Here is more Kat in Austin. Kan’t get enough.

  • Anonymous

    I like what I’m hearing here, but Steve Greenlee should maybe open his ears up. Melody Gardot has been out there doing this kind of music for years. No disrespect to Kat,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdKrUiUcEqw&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLCED4E1B1DB2AFD01

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tpao4pyFAIw&feature=related

  • Anonymous

    Anita O’Day, live at Newport:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agp2on83hrA

    Mr. Greenlee, you should dust off some of Anita O’Day’s records. This is high art, the standard that any jazz singer needs to deal with. 

  • Judyspinning

    She sounds like Joanie Sommers from the 60′s.  Very  distinctive.

    • http://stefmagura.wordpress.com/ Stefanie Magura

      You’re right.  I didn’t think of that.  I hear Dorris Day as well.

  • Schnack16

    Her voice reminds me of Astrud Gilberto

    • Mbmanray

      yes, definitely! the girl from…

  • Dave Huffman

    First time I heard you sing – I just bought both of your albums! Love your singing!

  • Nelson Norwood

    Hi Kat,  I am listening to you from Paris!  You sound great and I am so excited for you!  
    xo Nelson

  • Russells

    Listining from North Carolina.  Even though the style is totally different I hear some Cowboy Junkies in this.  Can’t wait to hear more from you.

  • Pcullen2

    Hi Kat. Listening from Michigan.  Nice, very nice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ccosteno Carlos Costeno

    i love jazz a lot.listening to you Kat from Jacksonville,fl.

  • Grampat3

    This Seattle jazz fan likes Kat Edmonson.Thanks for bringing her to me today.

  • Bgood

    Was listening and thought, “Wow, this is painful”.  I come from an accomplished musical background, personally and pretty much most of my family. Just not seeing what you all are.  What am I missing?  The adjectives Mr. Greenlee used…well, Tom Ashbrook called him out, implied that such accolades can’t be said more than a time or two in a lifetime, really challenging him on his description of her.   

  • your listener

    ..this is an interesting trend of singing style (how words are pronounced and sung..etc.) among young female musicians in recent years..ranges from softer to a little stronger, such as Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor.., and from Europe like Emiliana Torrini, there are more, but I can’t think of their names right now..
    Although my observation could be totally wrong.., but I’m curious if this singing style is originally inspired by then evolved from some of Bjork’s singing style if one follows her career closely, just curious..

  • your listener

    There was a short period i thought music is dead from listening to commercial radios and tv..

    ..so thankful music talents are still flourishing & alive till this day, nice to see jazz is reviving..!  

  • Marc Cardwell

    wow, when i listened to this interview, i was so sure it was phoebe hunt, formerly of belleville outfit. she’s an austin singer too, and the voices are very similar.

  • Greg

    I have been listening to both of Kat’s CD’s pretty much every day.  Thank you for this show and thank you, Kat.  I really like these CD’s

  • Pdmac1946

    I first heard this on satellite radio while driving my motorhome from Arizona to Michigan. What a treat!! What a lovely singer and person. I love her sound. Listening to hear is so refreshing. I am a favorite of the 30′s and 40′s torch singers like Eartha Kitt and Billy Holiday, and modern day singers like Madeliene Perieaux.  She shapes her voice and tones around the music and adds character to what she sings and how she sings it. Thank you Kat for the such pleasurable experience.

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