A decade ago Kat Edmonson released her debut album – that felt self-assured, confident. But it’s been leaps and bounds with each and every release. Here we are now with album number five, it’s been a busy decade – and maybe Dreamers Do is her very best work; certainly to me it’s her most interesting. A concept album – based around dreams, dreamers and dreaming and filled with songs from Disney classics, from the footnoted version of the Great American Songbook.
Edmonson grew up on the Songbook. Her version of being a jazz chanteuse takes from Billie and Ella even if her own style and sound is closer to Blossom Dearie.
Here she takes risks and employs several musicians to realise these dreams. It’s almost a different line-up for each and every one of the 20 songs. And there’s some real range here. She has a core backing unit and in particular drummer Aaron Thurston (co-producing with Edmonson and credited with a lot of the song arranging) is a special force.
Bassist Bob Hart, keyboardist Rob Schwimmer and guitarist Matt Munisteri all do very fine work here too, especially as they’re fitting in with various other featured players including the master guitarist Bill Frisell doing his pin-drop treatment for The Age of Not Believing.
I like the fact that slightly more obscure tunes (1961’s Go To Sleep) mingle with these big ole classics (What A Wonderful World) and sometimes it’s the lesser known one that wins out, always it’s something surprising and interesting.
Actually, Edmonson manages to breathe a new life into Wonderful World – she’s in full Blossom Dearie-mode here, whispery and joyous and she all but caresses the song.
But it’s the version of When You Wish Upon A Star that has me. Deep Singh’s tabla and Yacouba Sissoko’s kora create a whole new world for this song. The intro a tone-poem in and of itself. When Edmonson joins she takes the song towards Rickie Lee Jones’ Ghostyworld styles.
A similar mercurial device reframes Chim Chim Chim-ee as we hear light steel drums and pizzicato strings. The care and placement and ideas here are subtle and brilliant.
A brushed samba bounce kicks off All I Do Is Dream Of You and we could be in 1960s Brazil if we close our eyes but keep our ears open. Arguably that’s exactly what Kat Edmonson hopes you do when playing this album. I’ll hang on her every word.
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