Friday, July 01, 2016

"Dreams" Keeping Up Dean Jones

Dean Jones is ubiquitous. I mean, he produces just about everyone who's anyone in the kindie biz (I don't dare even start a list for fear of missing someone). Now he's gone back to the recording board and released a new solo offering – IN MY DREAMS. Jones' Dog On Fleas group seems to be turning into his E Street Band; there when he needs them, but otherwise he's got his finger paints in lots of projects.

IN MY DREAMS is a pretty accurate description for this dreamlike assortment of tunes. "Do You Talk To Yourself" is what we've been saying to our son Ben for years. "In My Dreams I Have A Dog" is a list by a pet-longerer, who manages to work Danger Mouse and Modest Mouse into his wish list. "People Watching" deconstructs the art and importance of reading the emotions and expressions of others. It's also about as close to Paul Simon as Dean Jones gets. "Monkey C Monkey" harkens back to Harry Nilsson. In fact, IN MY DREAMS seems like a throwback to the 1970s, when artists would put out an eclectic collection of songs every so often.

The rockingest tunes may be "Feline" and "What Kind Of Fruit," but then again, there are not many guitars floating through the ether on IN MY DREAMS. There are keyboards and steel pedal drums and lots of echo. Jones is very invested in silly things and if your kids like silly, he's your Dean. The CD front cover depicts a "Where the Wild Things Are" child with his menagerie, illustrated by Giselle Potter, while fruit-headed children dance on the back cover. It's fanciful, flighty, and fun and firmly in line with the music.

Jones says he wrote all the songs while walking in the woods with his dog and there's no reason to doubt him. Strange that the dog does not receive co-writing credits on any of the tracks, though. But then again, on the Talking Heads-esque, "Humans Are Still Evolving," he sings:

I know it's coming soon
We're gonna be more peaceful.
We've got to get rid of that caveman brain.

With IN MY DREAMS, Grammy-winning Jones does not set the kindie on its head. Rather, the CD is a playdate inside a child's imagination, with "Swiss Cheese Angels" and "Fly Like A Bird" wafting out like sonic waves. You can't cage imagination and Jones takes young listeners soaring, time and time again. Are you going to be the fuddy duddy who clips those wings?

IN MY DREAMS is available from the Dog on Fleas website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the song, "What Kind of Fruit":

Leeds Sings Bilingually (English, Hebrew) at Sunny NYC Show

The boys and I continued our June 30 "two-for-Thursday" music trek after stopping by my office for a bathroom break, visit with Grandpa, some much-needed air conditioning, and a lunch stop.

We headed for the subway and arrived at Union Square Park in plenty of time for Joanie Leeds' afternoon set for "Summer in the Square," courtesy of PJ Library and the 14th Street Y. With the temperatures starting to rise (settling in the low 80s), I directed the kids to a park bench in the shade and handed them bottles of water. "When are we going?" they asked every few minutes. But I made them tough out 15 minutes of inactivity to recharge their batteries.

The 30-minute performance included Joanie singing a number of acoustic songs (in English and Hebrew, which surprised many in the multi-ethnic crowd) and a PJ Library storytime led by Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein of "Baxter, The Pig Who Wanted to be Kosher." The audience skewed heavily towards 5-and-under (naturally, since teens don't normally gravitate towards these activities). But they were engaged and enthusiastic and got more into the "jumping and motioning" after the reading, when it's usually the opposite.

There were a number of Y and PJ Library staffers on hand to sing the Jewish choruses along with Joanie and Rabbi Epstein. You can see in the videos that some of the kids made attempts to join in. Music truly does smooth over cultural differences, as we saw earlier in the day with Father Goose and his Jamaican and Island-tinged tunes.

Later that night, rather than ask about upcoming concerts, Matthew informed me that our next music outings are Recess Monkey (July 17 in Yonkers) and Kidstock on Long Island (August 21 in Port Washington). I explained that I shot many videos from the two Thursday shows to create a "summer concert" DVD for him and his older brother. "Good," he replied, yawning. "Maybe you will film five Recess Monkey songs." Don't rush me, kid.

The "Summer in the Square" program continues throughout July on Thursdays at 2 pm (Joanie returns on 7/7). 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

No Bother, Time for Father Goose Live

We started our summer music series in earnest this week. The boys and I trekked into Manhattan for not one, but TWO children's music shows in TWO separate public parks. I'll talk about the morning show first – Father Goose in Madison Square Park.

MSQ has kind of a quirky setup – kids performances are sequestered to a side lawn near the playground. Meanwhile, you can look over the fountain to the main lawn, where there's a huge platform stage for adult music performances happening in the evening.

But their free summer concert series has been a boon. We took in Recess Monkey last summer, and this year's end-of-school, camp-hasn't-started concert turned out to be the Gooseman and Company. Luckily the weather was not as hot or humid (yet) and it was a breeze to walk with two kids in tow. Ben's knapsack contained a blanket to sit on. I carried waters and snacks (and a camcorder). Matthew, now too big for a stroller, handled the walk with aplomb.

Father Goose is coming back from some major medical issues and noted that this was his first full performance. The band did play two numbers on their own, which gave him a slight breather. The cast of characters also included "Little Goose," who contributed vocals for most of the set. Goose went through his catalog and kept the crowd entertained, stopping songs a couple of times to fill in background for the adults.

For some reason, I thought it would be fun to document more than 1-2 songs. I did not realize I would wind up shooting five of the numbers in the one-hour set. But it will give the kids more than a snapshot of their day to remember. Goose lets the band do most of the heavy lifting but his vocals and command of the crowd kept things lively. Ironically, one of the most spontaneous moments – a little girl dancing crazily as he stepped from the small stage – was not captured in my videos.

Goose is not touring a new album, rather getting back on the road and showing people that he still has it. And he still has it. I would suggest following him on social media for future appearances, as his web site stops at today's show. The kids grooved, the kids moved, and then we got the show on the road. There was some sadness on my part to today's travels but the kids buoyed my spirits. But that's something I'm writing about elsewhere in a more appropriate forum.

Stay tuned for part two – Joanie Leeds in Union Square Park.

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 1, 2016

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Amnesia – 5 Seconds of Summer
Water Under The Bridge  – Adele
Take Me Away – Sunshine Collective
Sugar – Maroon 5
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Turned Out – Paul McCartney

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, June 30, 2016

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
LA Christmas – Andrew & Polly & Mista Cookie Jar
All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Toothloser – Gustafer Yellowgold
Music is Everywhere – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Clap Your Hands – Red Yarn & Mo Phillips
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
California Kids – Weezer

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Carry a Tune – Recess Monkey
A Mapmaker's Song – Andrew & Polly
Sweetest Devotion – Adele
Harder To Breathe – Maroon 5
The Great Divide – The Okee Dokee Brothers
The Only One  – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
San Francisco – 5 Seconds Of Summer

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wake Up – Red Yarn & Morgan Taylor
Hello – Adele
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
This Love – Maroon 5
New  – Paul McCartney
Wind in Our Sail – Weezer
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
The Start of Things  – Alison Faith Levy

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 27, 2016

The Grass Is Always Greener – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Fun – Coldplay Feat. Tove Lo
Airplanes – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Favorite Book – The Bazillions
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
Hamsterdam – Ratboy Jr.
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith

Friday, June 24, 2016

Press Play: All-American Summer Sound from Brady Rymer and Co.

Hard to believe that we are deep into the second decade of the kindie era. Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkner helped kick off the first wave just prior to 9/11. Now I am gobsmacked by the wall of sound that envelopes the movement – from the Okee Dokee Brothers to Ziggy Marley to Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could.

Whither the Little Band That Could. They've been an integral part of our children's music experience going back eight years. We purchased Brady's first CD and Ben remembers the first time we saw the group live (Jalopy, Kindiefest 2009) and I have the video to prove it (2,800+ views to date). Since then, I've lost track of all the shows but the annual Kidstock gigs in Port Washington are always a delight.

Hailing from Long Island, Brady Rymer and crew deliver a tightly-honed all-American sound. "It's a Beauty" is a country charmer about an antique fire truck being restored for (what else) a parade. "Me On The Map" would not feel out of place on any Bon Jovi CD from the past 15 years. "Chain Reaction" and its Stax sound (horns, harmonies) should get the most recalcitrant kids up and dancing. The poignant "Hold This Home Together" describes the efforts of new parents negotiating responsibilities for their new child:

You say a prayer and I'll knock on wood.
You be the bad guy and I'll be the good.
You take the night shift and I got the dawn.
You sew a stitch and I'll sing a song.

The Little Band That Could (Claudia Mussen, Liz Queler, Seth Farber, Jeremy Chatzky, and Larry Eagle with Dan Myers on saxophone) need no compliments but I'll dole some out anyway for good measure. Many ensembles go through a feeling-out process that is sometimes discernible in the mix. No problems here as the band charges through the message-intensive "I Surprised Myself" and "Switcheroo Day," which asks children to consider how the world looks from other perspectives. The band operates as one cohesive unit and everyone gets their chance in the spotlight to shine.

For a while we thought Brady might be putting his group on the back burner to concentrate on his side gig, playing bass for the Laurie Berkner Band. But the band continues to record and perform and hasn't missed a step. We've felt a strong personal connection to Brady since the release of his 2011 CD, LOVE ME FOR WHO I AM, which grew out of his experience performing for and working with kids with Autism, Asperger's Syndrome and related disorders. This is not an intermittent or transient choice that coincidentally comes and goes depending on the release date of a new CD. Brady works with these kids every year. NEWSDAY caught a recent performance in May.

Many high-functioning special needs children want to "pass" as typical. It's easier for them to get through the day if their idiosyncrasies don't draw undue attention. But Brady's music promotes kids being kids and celebrates their differences. Ironically, we've found that the best children's music is produced by artists who "pass" as typical; It doesn't matter if there are kids around, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could will get you rocking with PRESS PLAY.

PRESS PLAY is available from Brady's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the band's song, "One Day By the Riverside":