You know it’s going to be a cozy night at The Blue Whale when the release of the debut album by saxist Kirsten Edkins has mom at the front door greeting each member of the audience and dad in the back selling the albums. Family values!
Stepping out from her well respected role as a sideman (Sidewoman? Sideperson? Sidesaddle?) for the likes of Clare Fischer, Arturo Sandoval and Bill Holman, saxist Kirsten Edkins delivered material from her highly impressive rookie album Art and Soul during her 70 minute set in a packed evening of celebration. She brought together a top notch team of Bill Cunliffe/p-key, Ryan Dragon/tb, Paul Robaire/b and Mark Ferber/dr and showed that her mix of composing and playing skills featured on the album was no fluke, as her warmed toned tenor worked wonders on the opening funky back beat burner like “Stomping Ground” as she melded with Dragon’s bold brass in front of the snappy rhythm team.
Robaire’s bass delivered a mean riff on the greasy “Mean Greens” while Edkins swaggered like a Texas tenor. On these pieces, as well as on the lithe and lyrical soprano on the album title track, she was quite democratic if not deferential in giving the teammates lots of solo space, with only five songs being presented during the opening set. This may have been simply a courtesy of not being used to being at the helm, but it was not necessary, as Ms Edkins seemed musically strong enough on her own to trust in her own delivery of the well crafted tunes.
Mentor and teacher Bob Sheppard jumped on stage for a wondrous boss tenor battle as the two locked horns on the stomping “Imagineering”. The rich bluesy fog warmed up the cold crisp December air, just before Edkins and company strutted out a soulful “Big B” that had every neck relaxed and supple to the feel good groove.
Sonny Rollins once said that album releases are invitations to concerts. Edkins reversed the role, making the gig at The Blue Whale a reason to check out the debut of an artist. Like the star in Bethlehem that we are celebrating this time of year, Kirsten Edkins points to a bright future.
Upcoming shows at The Blue Whale include Billy Childs 12/30 and Gilad Hekselman 01/8-9