The music has a touch of the familiar, if only in the approach to
playing it straight – no gimmicks. However, the songs of Art & Soul,
the debut of composer and saxophonist Kirsten Edkins (Kirsten Edkins
Music, 2015) are all new.
Edkins plays tenor, alto and soprano saxophones. Her primary
accompanists are Larry Goldings, piano and Hammond B3 organ; Mike
Valerio, bass; and Mark Ferber, drums. Guitarist Larry Koonse appears on
two tracks. Friend and mentor Bob Sheppard, tenor sax and bass clarinet,
appears on three tracks. Other guests are Mike Cottone, trumpet; and
Ryan Dragon, trombone.
Sheppard offers the distinctive sound of bass clarinet as part of the
bass rhythm for “Good Blood.” This is an old school band piece with
blended horns, Cottone and Dragon joining Edkins for the melody. Solos
are by Valerio, Edkins (soprano), Dragon and Goldings (piano). The
overall mood is easygoing, placid and at times adventurous. Some of the
background sounds add a haunting element.
“Soul Eyes” is a charming ballad with Edkins playing the tenor,
supported only by the core trio. Highlights include Goldings’ elegance
on piano and Ferber’s subtle cymbal play. Toward the end of the piece,
the intensity ratchets up a bit as Edkins’ passion comes through, and
the other musicians are slightly more emphatic.
“No Ordinary Joe” closes the set with help from the additional horns.
It’s an upbeat, finger-snapping beat. Cottone comes out a little more on
this one than on his earlier contribution. When he finally does stretch
out, it’s with a brassy brilliance one might come to expect from a
Freddie Hubbard or Terence Blanchard. Goldings, Valerio and Ferber stay
quite busy in the background. Edkins does her part on the tenor.
Edkins resides in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Eastman School of
Music. She has performed with Arturo Sandoval, Gary Smulyan, Tim Hagans,
Goldings, Sheppard, Koonse, New York Voices and others. Non-jazz
performances include dates with Carrie Underwood, Stevie Wonder, Smokey
Robinson, Natalie Cole, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Seth MacFarlane,
Katherine McPhee, Wayne Brady, Otis Williams, Gloria Gaynor and many
Her television appearances include American Idol, The Voice,
Knight Riders, Glee, Bones and The
Art & Soul is a welcome addition to the modern landscape of