Friday, July 10, 2015

Jazzy Ash Makes a Happy Return to New Orleans

Where were you when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 10 years ago? For me, it's bittersweet – a family vacation to Sesame Place with our (then) four-year-old son. On a selfish personal level, that was the vacation where gas prices went up 40 cents overnight and another 75 cents by the next morning. We sat in an air conditioned hotel dining area watching peoples' homes being swept away by torrential weather.

The country rallied around New Orleans. The phrase "We are New Orleans," appropriated by later devastations, was heard. And the music – marginalized by many as quaint and archaic – received a reprise, as people learned of the plight of aging area musicians. Ten years later, we are still reminded of what happened in the Big Easy. Even Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters paid homage to the city in an episode of his documentary series, Sonic Highways.

We've played cajun, funk, and homespun music for the kid(s) going way back to Putumayo Kids' New Orleans Playground. But compilations don't compare to an individual artist or group sharing their passion. Ashli Christoval's mom grew up in New Orleans and her father hailed from Trinidad. That's one recipe for jambalaya on the boombox and sure enough, "Jazzy Ash" grew to embrace many musical cultures. Her third recording for children, BON VOYAGE, promotes her dedication to New Orleans, its traditions, and sounds. Assisted by her group, the Leaping Lizards, Ash peppers the CD with inspired novelties such as Louis Armstrong's "Heebie Jeebies" and "Hide and Seek," which brings listeners back to the 1940s in its chorus of "Never gonna find me!"

At heart, BON VOYAGE lives down on the bayou. The album follows the daily routines of New Orleans kids, including many things Ash herself enjoyed as a child while vacationing during the summers with her aunts and grandparents. "Leap Frog," "Tandem Bike," and "Buddy" celebrate the simple pleasures of childhood, with warm vocals and a jazz band that keeps your toes tapping and your head bobbing.

Grammy award-winner Jennifer Gasoi drops by to harmonize sweetly on "Ice Skates" and mirthmaker Chris "Boom" Wiser from the Sugar-Free All-Stars turns back the clock to Duke Ellington era Big Bands with "Tandem Bike." While that song nearly concludes with a crash, BON VOYAGE soars with optimism for sunny days in New Orleans in the future, for kids of all ages.

VON VOYAGE is available July 28 from Jazzy Ash's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the vintage-themed video for "Heebie Jeebies":

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