Hot Tracks

This album of original tunes penned by singer Kat Edmonson is kooky, beautifully arranged and performed, and sounds true to the old-fashioned genres it celebrates without being twee or snarky.

This Texas-born crooner has a Betty Boop-light voice, which could easily become a vocal caricature. But Edmonson has good technical control over her voicing, and unerring musical instincts, which makes this album a startling pleasure to put on repeat.

The genres she tackles range from sweet Broadway-style ballads to mournful Patsy Cline-inspired blues. The opening track sets the retro atmosphere: Sparkle And Shine is a sweetly starry-eyed love ballad boosted by subtle string arrangements.

Another appealing track is I'd Be Fool, which has twangy guitar accents and Edmonson yodels bent notes in the best tradition of Cline's melancholic midnight manner.

A Voice could sit easily in a Broadway production as an expository confessional solo: "If I had a voice I would sing/And I'd be satisfied, I'd sing the pain away inside of me."

Please Consider Me sets a romantic plea in almost cliched Parisian mise en scene with twinkling glockenspiel, while the sunny How's About It Baby is a lightly swinging tune in the vein of I Can't Give You Anything But Love.


  • JAZZ

    OLD FASHIONED GAL

    Kat Edmonson

    MRI

    4 stars

The title track is packed with wry observations that gently skewers the modern world with a nostalgic longing for less frenetic times: "Are you tired of being assailed by barrages of emails/and are popup ads destroying your morale?/Well then look no further brethen, we were destined for each other, I'm an old fashioned gal."

Edmonson might profess to be old-fashioned, but her musical sensibilities will never go out of style.

Ong Sor Fern


British cellist Steven Isserlis has another winner in this album of cello sonatas written during World War I (1914 to 1918) by composers from the warring nations.

The contrasts are as varied as the composers themselves. Two Frenchmen nearing their last years find altogether different inspirations.

Claude Debussy's Cello Sonata (1915) seeks a simplicity that defined early French music and is a gem of brevity in three movements.

Gabriel Faure's Cello Sonata No. 1 (1917) has a mellowness and autumnal lyricism that could have come only from the same pen as his famous Requiem of 1890.

Between these is the longest of three sonatas, Englishman Frank Bridge's Cello Sonata (1913 to 1917). Its two movements are filled with passionate and, sometimes, violent outbursts, which reflect the brutal futility of war.


  • CLASSICAL THE CELLO IN WARTIME

    Steven Isserlis, cello

    Connie Shih, piano

    BIS 2312

    5 stars

Austrian composer Anton Webern's Three Little Pieces (1914) were chosen as the antithesis. Atonal and aphoristic, these play for just nine, 13 and 10 bars each, barely lasting three minutes in total.

The recital concludes with four short pieces played on a "trench cello" (a compact self-assembled instrument housed within a rectangular case the size of an ammunition box) once owned by war veteran Harold Triggs, who carried and played it on the fields of Ypres in Belgium.

Its limpid and glassy tone brings a poignancy to Saint-Saens' The Swan, Hubert Parry's Jerusalem, Ivor Novello's Keep The Home-Fires Burning, and God Save The King, which has to be heard to be believed.

Isserlis and Canadian pianist Connie Shih serve up an aural treat in this excellent themed recital.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe