Thursday, February 04, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 5, 2016

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Hello Goodbye – Caspar Babypants
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders
Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
Sweetest Devotion – Adele

Quick Hits: Hullabaloo, Diana Panton, and All That Jazz

What do children and jazz have in common? They are both acquired tastes.

What about jazz music for children? Well, now you're talking about an entire new set of standards – namely, if you do not have a predisposition for jazz, do you introduce the genre to your children? Do you feel it essential to "round out" their musical palette? Will they be "deprived" or limited in their appreciation of the entirety of the medium?

Such a conundrum and in walks Diana Panton, the Canadian award-winning jazz performer, with her first (mostly for kids) CD, I BELIEVE IN LITTLE THINGS. If you've ever seen Mr. Rogers Neighborhood or heard its distinctive theme song and transition music by Johnny Costa, you can imagine what Panton has scored. It's jazz for the junior set, with clear vocals and arrangements (and vibes) by Canadian multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson.

Perhaps it's Panton's newness to children's music or her belief that jazz arrangements would elevate them for wider audiences. She definitely has a different take on the oft-recorded "Sing," "Rainbow Connection," "When You Wish Upon a Star," and "Pure Imagination." There are also other tunes by Sesame Street legend Joe Raposo ("Everybody Sleeps") and A. A. Milne ("Halfway Down the Stairs"), as well as an original slumber song, "Sleep Is A Precious Thing."

I BELIEVE IN LITTLE THINGS has already been released to much acclaim in Canada. Now it's the United States' time to stand up (or sit down and sway gently) for Panton and company. This is mind-stimulating stuff, if not get up and dance music. Panton covers "Hushabye Mountain" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, for Pete Seeger's sake!

I can hear some people saying, "Jazz is culturally important – pay attention!" I can honestly say that when I played the CD as dinner music, it was the fastest meal the kids have ever had. Mainly because the five-year-old nearly fell asleep, as I coaxed him into trying to recognize the songs he knew is more traditional arrangements.

It all comes down to your taste. Are you a rocker or a jazzy hepcat? Or somewhere in between? Do you believe that music can control your subconscious and take you places? I'm asking you quietly and nicely, because I'm currently listening to Panton sing "Slumber My Darling," and I'm almost there.

I BELIEVE IN LITTLE THINGS is available on Diana Panton's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Hullabaloo may be almost of prolific as Recess Monkey – this month, they are releasing their 12th CD in 12 years! I'll be reviewing it in the days ahead. In the meantime, here's the SECOND video from I CHEW, entitled, "Worm With Wings":

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 4, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Super Hero Rock Band – The Bazillions
Odd Socks – Dean Jones
Crazy Mountain Road –  Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
In A Band – Michael & The Rockness Monsters
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rest Easy Now – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
Snaggletooth – Dean Jones
It Suits You – Gustafer Yellowgold
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Dinosaur Haircut – Michael & The Rockness Monsters
Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke

Monday, February 01, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
LA Christmas – Andrew & Polly & Mista Cookie Jar
Ahava – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Groove – Lori Henriques
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Pon De Replay – Rihanna
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 29, 2016

Sunshine Family – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips  (feat. Aaron Nigel Smith)
That Way – Chibi Kodama
Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time
My Heart Is Open – Maroon 5 Feat. Gwen Stefani
A Million Miles Away – Rihanna
Everybody Out There – Paul McCartney

My Goodness, It's Michael and the Rockness Monsters

For many performers, children's music goes from a hobby to a passion to an occupation. Some try to emulate the success of Music Together, which binds the product (CDs) intrinsically to the program. I will forget a few, but Laurie Berkner is the latest to take that route, which includes Music for Aardvarks, Kira Willey (yoga), and New Jersey's Preschool of Rock.

The risk/reward ratio has an exponential curve – your core audience must be constantly cultivated with concerts, videos, local public relations, and word-of-mouth. Kids who age out of the lowest levels of the program can stick around for music lessons. But it's an endless cycle that can wear out the most dedicated instructors, who sometimes farm out the hands-on activities and stick to the administrative side.

It takes a lifelong immersion to surrender completely to the process. Among the most disciplined of these disciples is Michael Napolitano, the founder and director of Preschool of Rock. The son of a professional touring drummer, Michael began his musical adventure at 18 months old. Smash-cut to 10 years performing with the Blue Man Group and jump-ahead eight years to present day, with Preschool of Rock established at more than one dozen NJ/NY metropolitan locations.

Ben (15) occasionally asks "Where's the next Music for Aardvarks CD?" I explain that he's aged-out of that program. Thus, even if we got new music, it would be more suited for his little brother (5). Michael has left the constraints of Preschool of Rock for a while to devote himself to MICHAEL AND THE ROCKNESS MONSTERS. It's a children's CD without instructions for parents and isn't that a blessing.

Under the direction of ├╝ber-producer Dean Jones, Michael lets loose a whimsical narrative-free compilation of characters and concepts. After listening to literally dozens of CDs that Jones has produced over the past few years, it's no wonder his services are in such high demand. The Rockness Monsters don't hit any wrong notes or jagged chords because they've been crafted to near-kindie perfection under his skilled hands.

The album's first track, "Pirate Song," delivers a sing-along "yo ho ho" chorus replete with multiple chances to scream "Aaarrrrrrrr!" Michael espouses that Black Sabbath is his favorite band. The closest thing to heavy metal on this disc are "In a Band" and "Rock It!"

More of the songs are in the toe-tapping juvenile jaunty vein of "Single Digits," where the protagonist bemoans the cold weather and recounts all the locations he'd rather be. For out-and-out fantasy, there's also "Dinosaur Haircut" and the reggae-tinged "Cosmic Vacation," where the best places to visit are all in the mind. Understandably (and since the CD is "Presented by Preschool of Rock"), Michael can't get completely away from the winding down concept with "Humming Song."

MICHAEL AND THE ROCKNESS MONSTERS doesn't break any new ground. But it allows Michael an opportunity to erase the dotted line between quality and quantity of musical expression that comes with a time-dependent kids music program. I wouldn't doubt that a few of these tunes show up in Preschool of Rock's curriculum. But they're fine on their own, which is a good placement on the risk/reward ratio for Michael.

MICHAEL AND THE ROCKNESS MONSTERS is available February 26 from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the debut video from the album, "Pirate Song":

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Colores (featuring Oz Noy) – Hot Peas N Butter
How Great Can This Day Be – Lori Henriques
Spatula vs Sun – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
On Air – The Pop-Ups
SOS – Rihanna

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Music is Everywhere – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Lightning Bolt  – Pearl Jam
We Are The Kids – Walk The Moon
Paper Airplane – Recess Monkey