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Kat Edmonson is one cool customer

Kat Edmonson

8 p.m. Thursday

Kessler Theater, Dallas


214-272-8346; prekindle.com

7:30 p.m. Saturday

Will Rogers Memorial Center, Fort Worth, as part of Jazz by the Boulevard.

$5 general admission; 888-512-SHOW; frontgatetickets.com

Posted 6:21pm on Wednesday, Sep. 08, 2010

Let's clear up one thing about Kat Edmonson: She's not strictly a jazz artist.

Sure, she tackles canonical classics like Night and Day, but the 27-year-old Austin resident also incorporates left-field choices like the Cardigans' Lovefool or her popular take on the Cure's oft-covered Just Like Heaven.

Edmonson, in her own way, is trying to expand the boundaries of jazz. Her music is as much about mood as material; her wondrous voice, which has set critical tongues wagging, instantly makes whatever she sings her own.

It has been called "kittenish" and "coy" by music writers, while Edmonson has been lumped in with greats like Cassandra Wilson and Billie Holiday. A peculiar sort of raspy coo that floats along on cinders and almost tangible sensuality, Edmonson's distinctive vocals lure listeners closer. Her unique appropriation of everything from Henry Mancini to eyeliner-smeared goth-pop puts her in league with crossover acts like Jamie Cullum or Michael Bublé - artists too slippery for one genre.

All leading to the question: Is Edmonson being labeled incorrectly?

"I feel like these days, in particular, people are really set on categorizing things in music so much that it can often be confusing for an artist like myself who dabbles in all sorts of things," Edmonson says by phone from New York. "I want to challenge myself, but I also want to challenge the listener to think outside the box. Why can't the standard repertoire continue to grow?"

The Houston native does her part to take jazz further afield with her 2009 debut album, Take to the Sky, made up of the aforementioned standards and eclectic covers. Fresh off a stint opening for Lyle Lovett, another solidly idiosyncratic Texan, Edmonson will play a pair of North Texas shows this weekend: Thursday at Dallas' Kessler Theater and Saturday as part of Fort Worth's annual Jazz By the Boulevard.

Perhaps the most daunting element of making a name with mostly cover songs is the ability to stand out from the hundreds of versions preceding your own.

"With each of the tunes on Take to the Sky, I can say I absolutely took pause with each one," says Edmonson, "because I wanted to honor the songs; equally so with the standards, because I wanted to honor the songs and the songwriter."

Edmonson will likely write some songs for her next album, which she's currently hashing out in New York City. But she can't promise what ultimately makes the final cut.

"I feel like it's all coming about very organically," she says. "It's important to me to really slowly and carefully let that happen; nothing forced."

Whatever path Edmonson's career follows from here, she will cling to a self-described motto which, thus far, has brought nothing but success: "Good music is good music."

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