The dream is the thing
Jazz vocalist Kat Edmonson finds magic in the process
When you wish upon a star your dreams come true, right? You know the song, and the sentiment. The question is, as you get older, do you keep believing in it? Texas-born jazz singer Kat Edmonson explores that very idea on her just-released album, Dreamers Do, a collection of both originals and reimagined classics that fit the theme: “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
The Brooklyn-based artist began crafting the record in 2017, but paused the project to release her 2018 full-length album, Old Fashioned Gal (one the singer wrote to follow the premise of a made-up old classic movie). For Dreamers Do, Edmonson began with “Too Late to Dream,” her own original song. Talking about the tune during a recent telephone interview, she explained: “In it I ask the question, ‘Is there a point in our lives where it’s too late for us?’ Does that come with age or a particular circumstance?”
The query led Edmonson to revisit classic songs from her childhood, iconic numbers from old Disney films. “It was very inspiring to go through all this old repertoire and embark on this journey, if you will, and to understand what it is to dream, to have a dream, and all the things that can happen around dreaming,” Edmonson said.
“I wanted to go back to the place where I was told with total absolution that following a dream was possible and fruitful,” she continued. “Those songs don’t mince words; they tell you, this is how it works. If you believe and dream hard enough, your dream will come true. That can be interpreted so many ways, especially as we’re conditioned to go into our adulthood. What does that mean? Does it mean to wish for something and for it to happen, is that within our right, or does it mean that we get everything we wish for?”
What came about were soft and sweet arrangements that take listeners through lush yet modest textures, wrapped around Edmonson’s glowing soprano timbre (akin to the late great jazz singer Blossom Dearie). Though familiar, the covers take on something that feels altogether new.
“I began with the songwriter, and what the intention was behind the writing of the song,” she said. “And then I let the music and the lyrics evoke a sentiment, and from there I imagined what sounds can convey that sentiment. I avoid any kind of deconstruction of a well-known song, and just began with, if the song were to have been written yesterday, what does it sound like, what does it say?”
As for the question of dreams coming true, for Edmonson it’s no longer about believing in wishes being granted, but rather the magic of the dreams themselves.
“[What] I came to find through making this record was a great sense of peace, a reminder of something I’d lost touch with, which is there’s a quiet power in merely having a dream,” Edmonson said. “It’s where everything else comes from. To be in pursuit of something, there isn’t an ending to that. It implies there’s something else to achieve. And I think it’s where confusion can come into play around dreaming, because the power of merely having a dream is actually a place of great creativity and great peace. Being in that state is really where I want to be.”