The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis has been in the headlines quite a bit this year, having released two new compilation albums – one a group of songs that interpret well-known paintings and the other a collection of holiday music performances. Just last week, the group displayed its wide-ranging talents even more when it released its new family music album Jazz For Kids. The 10-song record is yet another enjoyable offering from the musical collective in that it shows jazz and family music may not be as far from one another as one might think and that in fact both genres can be enjoyed just as much by one age group as the other. The compilation’s opener, ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ goes a long way to support that statement. The beloved Muppets tune ‘Mah Na Mah Na’ does just as much as the album’s opener to achieve that success. The same can be said of ‘I Like To Take My Time.’ All three songs exemplify in their own way why this record is such an enjoyable work for listeners of all ages. When they are considered alongside the rest of the record’s offerings, the whole becomes a record that is one more of this year’s top new Jazz & Blues albums as well as one more of the year’s top new Family Music albums.
The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis has produced in its new compilation Jazz For Kids, a record that is an enjoyable work not just for kids, but for older listeners as well. It shows that the worlds of family music and jazz may not be as far from one another as many listeners might think. The record’s opener, ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ is just one of the songs featured in this record that supports the noted statements. The song opens with members of the group using muted trumpets to mimic – almost perfectly – the sound of sheep calling. That brief introduction gives way to a catchy, bluesy arrangement featuring a walking bass line that forms the arrangement’s backbone, which is itself complimented by a piano line, trumpet, occasional saxophone solo and drums. What is so interesting in this simple grouping of musicians is that while the song is meant to be a new take on a classic children’s tune, the song develops its very own identity through its arrangement. The end result is a song that stands just as strongly on its own musical merits as it does on the fact that it is a cover of a kids’ tune. This kind of approach, is of course nothing new for the Jazz At Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The group has prided itself on using this approach many times before. It proved successful every time previously and just as much here as in the past. While the group’s take on ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ proves a strong opener for Jazz For Kids, it is just one of the songs that serves to show what makes this record such a joy. The group’s arrangement of ‘Mah Na Mah Na’ does just as much as its take on ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ to make that case.
The presentation of ‘Mah Na Mah Na’ here pays such wonderful tribute to its source material in its arrangement, even going so far as to include one member of the group singing the monster’s part early on. That brief moment is the song’s only moment that features any vocals. The rest of the song is presented musically, and so well at that. What makes the arrangement so really enjoyable is the music diversity displayed throughout the arrangement. The drums, brass and woodwinds present a distinct jazz swing while the violin incorporated into the song adds a touch of bluegrass with its own jazz tinge. The whole of the arrangement is what is – in this critic’s ears – the record’s most notable song. It is just a nice, bouncy, fun song that will bring out the nostalgia in older listeners while introducing a whole new generation of listeners to a great, timeless work. It is just one more of the album’s most notable moments. ‘I Like To Take My Time’ is yet another song that shows what makes Jazz For Kids a work that will appeal just as much to kids as t will adults.
‘I Like To Take My Time’ is a cover of the song from the beloved PBS series Mister Rogers Neighborhood. That song in itself had its own light, jazzy feel, as did many songs featured in the timeless, irreplaceable series. So it should come as no surprise that it would be featured in this record. The arrangement here is more upbeat than that featured in Mister Rogers Neighborhood. It does retain some of the reserved nature of its source material, but by and large, it develops its own identity with its brass flourishes, drum fills and woodwind melodies. Fred Rogers’ original composition barely topped the one-minute mark, but this arrangement, with all of its elements, clocks in at almost four-and-a-half-minutes. The result is a work that is an enjoyable work in its own right that is also a fitting tribute to the memory and legacy of Fred Rogers. When it is considered alongside the other songs discussed here and the rest of the album’s works, the whole of the songs makes Jazz For Kids a work that is aimed at kids, but is just as appealing for grown-ups as their younger counterparts.
The Jazz At Lincoln Center With Wynton Marsalis’ new family music album Jazz For Kids is a work that may be aimed at kids, but will appeal just as much to adults as it will to children. That is due to arrangements which take the children’s classics and give them a whole new jazz identity. All three of the songs examined serve to prove that statement. The other songs that make up the rest of the record could just as easily be cited in making that statement. When those songs and the songs discussed here are considered together, the whole of the songs presents Jazz For Kids to be a record that is one of the best new family music albums of this year and one of the year’s top new jazz & blues records. It is available now. More information on this and other titles from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis is available online now at:
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