PBS and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis partnered last year to pay tribute to the beloved children’s series Sesame Street. The concert, dubbed A Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration was part of the ongoing celebration of the series’ 50th anniversary. With any luck, audiences will eventually be able to own the concert in full on DVD and/or Blu-ray. Unless or until that happens, audiences can enjoy the concert in an exclusive audio presentation thanks to Blue Engine Records. The show’s set list is in itself more than enough reason to take in this performance. It will be addressed shortly. The performance thereof adds even more enjoyment to the concert and will be discussed a little later. The concert’s production rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later. Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered, the recording proves to be a presentation that audiences of all ages will enjoy, whether they are fans of jazz, Sesame Street or the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s new musical tribute to Sesame Street, which was clearly recorded prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is a wonderful presentation. It is a work that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. That is proven in part through the concert’s set list. The 13-song set list plays out like a musical history lesson about Sesame Street. That is because the featured songs are from the series’ formative years, going all the way back to 1969 – when the series debuted – and all the way up to 1989. There is also one song from 2006 added in for good measure. For the most part though, the song’s set list features songs that, like Rena Strober’s recently released album Imagine That, largely pays tribute to the work of Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss. Case in point are songs, such as the series’ theme song (Joe Raposo), ‘Rubber Duckie’ (Jeff Moss), ‘One Of These Things’ (Joe Raposo), ‘I Don’t Want To Live on the Moon’ (Jeff Moss), ‘People in Your Neighborhood’ (Jeff Moss), ‘Believe in Yourself’ (Joe Raposo), and ‘Sing’ (Joe Raposo). Simply put, more than half of the songs featured in this set list were crafted by the famed composers and songwriters. The other featured songs were written and composed by others, so in reality, there is a clear tribute to the work of Raposo and Moss. Whether that was intentional is anyone’s guess. Regardless, the picture painted by this set is sure to appeal to plenty of audiences simply because it takes audiences back to Sesame Street’s golden age. This is just one part of what makes this recording so enjoyable. The performance of said set list adds even more enjoyment to the recording’s presentation.
The performance of the noted set list is so enjoyable because it is not just a bunch of song performances. Big Bird, Elmo, Rosita, The Count, Grover, and other beloved Sesame Street characters take part in the performances, adding to their richness. Sure, the introductory moment for each performance was scripted with some feeling a little bit forced, most of those introductory moments felt so natural. Case in point was Grover’s introduction as Super Grover ahead of ‘Believe in Yourself.’ Audiences got to see him “fly” onto the stage before sharing a little dialogue with one member of the orchestra. Grover’s presence and his dialogue with the noted musician is certain to leave audiences smiling and laughing. The very performance of the song adds even more to the moment.
Another notable moment in which the performance shines is in that of ‘I Don’t Want To Live on the Moon.’ Ever since its initial performance on television so many decades ago, the song has been a gentle lullaby. Every time it has been covered, it has maintained that gentle tone, too. In the case of its performance here though, it has a more upbeat yet controlled presence. In other words, while it is not quite the lullaby style work that it has come to be known as over the years, that element is still there. The balance of the old and new makes this moment one of the concert’s most notable highlights.
Yet another memorable moment that makes the concert’s overall performance so enjoyable comes early on in the performance of ‘Sing After Me.’ Abby Cadabra and Big Bird join the orchestra for this light hearted performance. The chemistry between the Muppet performers and the musicians is so clear as Abby and Big Bird try to learn about scatting in their discussion with Marsalis. The duo’s interaction with the audience throughout the song, as they get everyone to sing along makes for even more enjoyment. It is just one more moment that shows the strength of the group’s performance of the set list. When it is considered along with the rest of the enjoyable performance and the et list itself, the two items give audiences more than enough reason to take in this concert recording. The set list and the performance thereof are only a portion of what makes this recording so enjoyable. The production thereof puts the finishing touch to its presentation.
The production of A Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration adds its own impact because it takes into account every audio aspect of the performance. What’s more the visual aspect was also taken into account. Those who watched the pre-taped performance got the best seat in the house, going high above the audience and up on stage with the group. The camera transitions (fades in TV terminology) are smooth and well-paced. They help give a full, rich picture. The audio is just as well-balanced, especially considering the size of the concert hall. Each performer (musician and puppeteer) was adequately mic’d up and equally well-balanced. At the same time, the audience noise was just as audible without any element being too airy. The result of all of the attention to detail in the production (both during and post) results in a presentation that is just as enjoyable for its audio and visual aspects as for its primary content. All things considered, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration proves to be a fully enjoyable musical tribute from a great musical collective to an equally great television series.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s new concert recording A Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration is a completely enjoyable new live offering that the whole family will enjoy. It is another great tribute to Sesame Street and its legacy. That is proven in part through the concert’s featured set list. The set list largely pays tribute to the work of Jeff Moss and Joe Raposo on the long-running series. The performance thereof adds its own enjoyment and appeal to the presentation. That is because the performance is more than just a bunch of songs. There is actually more to the performance, as audiences will learn for themselves. The production (during and post) puts the finishing touch to the recording. That is proven as it sounds and looks wonderful. Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this recording. All things considered, the noted items make A Swingin’ Sesame Street celebration one more of this year’s top new live CDs and family music albums. With any luck the folks at Sesame Workshop will eventually release it on DVD and Blu-ray so that audiences can get the full experience.
More information on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s A Swingin‘ Sesame Street Celebration concert is available along with all of the group’s news at:
More information on Sesame Street is available along with all of the series’ latest news at:
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