Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Drink Up – Train
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
I Can See Clearly Now – Jojo & The Pinecones
Step Outside the Box – Stacey Peasley
24K Magic – Bruno Mars

Monday, January 30, 2017

Friendship Trumps Howard Stern's View of Presidency

As a 30-year listener to Howard Stern, I was eager this morning to hear his take on Friday's executive order banning immigrants from seven countries, issues by President Trump.

I sat through nearly four hours of phony phone calls, Wack Pack mayhem with longtime caller Steve From Florida, and a surprisingly emotional interview with sports broadcaster Joe Buck, until Robin Quivers got to the news.

Twenty minutes in, we got the following exchange, about the political activism on display at the SAG Awards on Sunday night.

Robin: Julia Louis-Dreyfus pointed out that she is the daughter of an immigrant who fled religious persecution by the Nazis.
Howard: No Baba Booeys, huh?

Howard has gone out of his way not to badmouth his longtime friend of the show Donald Trump. He even felt it was necessary to chastise media outlets who played selected clips of Trump's radio appearances during the election cycle that pointed out the candidate's sexist attitudes about women.

In doing so, Stern is performing an elaborate game of Limbo – how low can Trump go without Stern giving his true opinions and offering commentary. Robin is not baiting him; she often gets criticized for reporting "old news," and this was certainly one of the most important and pertinent topics of the day.

It's going to be interesting to see how long Stern can maintain this guise. Is he angling for an invitation to the White House? Walking a tightrope to not agitate his most left-wing Hollywood friends? (Even Jimmy Kimmel called one Trump cabinet nominee a "piece of shit".)

But in avoiding controversy by not alienating his "friend" Donald Trump, Stern is terribly disappointing many fans. It's one thing to become intensely politically correct. Or to avoid booking controversial or opinionated guests like Gilbert Gottfried. Or to mend fences with Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell to book more mainstream celebrities.

By not taking sides in this debate, Stern comes across as a coward. Yes, he is a "comedian" doing a "morning radio show." But his opinions reach millions of fans, listeners, and politicians.

What does Howard's father, an Army veteran, think about a Nazi gaining the ear of the President? What does his mother, a champion of integration, think about a ban on immigrants from countries that have not produced any terrorist attacks on American soil?

With every new ridiculous executive order and edict, Trump brings this nation closer to becoming a banana republic. While intensely worried about being judged an illegitimate president, his every action makes that truth becomes more self-evident.

We need voices speaking out about what is happening. And Howard Stern's silence is deafening. And telling at the same time.

All the Jazz That Fits With Jojo & the Pinecones

Jazz hands everybody! Or rather, how about a hand for jazz? There seems to be a mini-comeback of the genre inside the venue of children's music. Between Lucy Kalantari, Jazzy Ash, Lori Henriques, and now JoJo and the Pinecones, there's a whole spectrum to educate your kids. I was fortunate enough to see the group perform at Hootenanny earlier this month (with Lucy, Jazzy, as well as Tim Kubart).

Joelle Lurie and musical partner Benjamin Gallina (whose website is a mnemonic for "brangelina") crafted their new CD, NIGHT & DAY, as part of their residency at Lincoln Center Education. The album is a amalgam of new and reinvigorated standards such as the title track and "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'." For anyone who watched Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the piano break in "Dream A Little Dream of Me" will remind you of the late Johnny Costa.

There are so many recordings of "I Can See Clearly Now" that it's pointless to make comparisons. But JoJo and company strive to make it downbeat and upbeat at the same time. You won't forget it's an album for your kids with such selections as "I Spy" and the cheery "Breakfast for Dinner," which is a rap short of being a Mista Cookie Jar song. Pizza for breakfast? Somebody is gonna give the tots some intriguing ideas.

NIGHT & DAY is designed in two sets, "Night" and "Day," with seven lighter, playful tracks that segue into seven to wind down from the hustle and bustle of school, homework, and chores. JoJo & The Pinecones take their childhood experiences and memories and run them through a tapestry of American Jazz stylings. Just when you think jazz is exclusionary, for a certain class of people, or just too cool for your tastes, along comes the closing track, "Farewell and Goodnight," a Smashing Pumpkins tune transformed from grinding guitars into a bluesy, horn-filled lullaby. Good night indeed. But not farewell.

NIGHT & DAY is available from JoJo & The Pinecones' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for their song, "Breakfast for Dinner":

Thursday, January 26, 2017

RSVP for Stacey Peasley

One of my January highlights thus far was Hootenanny in Brooklyn. I got a chance to network with way too many performers and personalities. I trekked two hours through a bone-chilling snow storm that paralyzed parts of the East Coast (delaying SiriusXM/Recess Monkey's Jack Forman and preventing an appearance by Josh and the Jamtones). I heard about exciting new projects and danced with Grammy winners (and nominees). Several musicians also plugged just-released or upcoming CDs. Which brings me to this column.

Stacey Peasley, the pride of Natick, Massachusetts, recently released RSVP, her latest children's music CD. A teacher (and stage mother), Stacey uses her songs to amuse as well as entertain. She walks that fine line between talking down to youngsters and talking to them. Tunes such as "Step Outside the Box" and "Allergies" tackle cultural sensitivity and sensitive systems. "Hand Me Downs" heralds the arrival of "new" second-hand clothing. The title track recounts a laundry list of friends and acquaintances around the country who are receiving an invitation to a birthday party – also serving as a metaphor for agreeing to hear the rest of the CD.

Breaking the Dean Jones producing monopoly is a challenging venture, but They Might Be Giants' drummer and composer Marty Beller more than ably manages the task. The Johns have taken a sabbatical from the children's scene while Marty has chosen to stick his toes further into the kindie pond (as has bandmate Danny Weinkauf).

Stacey continues her performing and teaching ventures in the Boston area. This dozen new tunes should more than suffice for her students and audience members, young and old alike. RSVP (with its signature artwork by Jill Howarth) instinctively calls out for a response, literally and figuratively.

RSVP is available from Stacey's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for her song, "Soapy Bubbles":

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 26, 2017

Find A Way – Stacey Peasley
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Washington, DC – The Not-Its!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Auntie Kayte Sings Fairy Tales

Last week, Auntie Kayte released "RUFUS THE UNICORN AND OTHER UPSIDE-DOWN FAIRYTALE SONGS." Aimed squarely at preschoolers, the CD is a collection of character-based story songs featuring the title character as well as "Pirates Are People Too."

There's a lot of positive reinforcement for the tots. For instance, here's lyrics from "A Princess Can Be Smart":

A princess can be a doctor, and a princess can be a mom.
A princess can travel the world, and a princess can stay home.
A princess can be an inventor, a teacher or a nurse
She can speak a foreign language or write a rhyming verse

California-based Kayte has a kind heart, sunny disposition, and clear voice. Her music is part of a larger stage show, involving costumes and drawings. But songs are always part of a child's gateway to viewing live performances. So take that for what it's worth.

You can order RUFUSE THE UNICORN from Auntie Kayte's website.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, January 23, 2017

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
The Grass Is Always Greener  – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Me Too – Meghan Trainor
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Rocketship – Stacey Peasley

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 20, 2017

Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Don't Grow Up Too Fast – Keith Munslow & Bridget Brewer
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
People Watching – Dean Jones

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 19, 2017

Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Mama Don't Allow –  In The Nick Of Time
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
So Gazed Upon – Cat Doorman
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
Why Did You Teach Me That Word – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Betsy DeVos: Poster Child for Patronage and Privilege

Billionaire Betsy DeVos is getting pilloried on Capital Hill for her seeming inability to answer "yes" or "no" questions during her hearing for the position of Secretary of the Department of Education. Even more ridiculous, DeVos admitted she favored guns in schools, relaying a story about a Wyoming school that was worried about grizzly bear attacks.

DeVos has no professional experience in public schools, never attended public schools nor sent her own children to public schools. She has never held public office. She has stated it's possible her family has donated $200M to Republicans. DeVos is quoted (prior to the hearing) as saying "My family is the single largest contributor of soft money to the National Republican Party. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return."

DeVos has lobbied for decades to expand charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers for private and religious schools. No fan of public schools (since she has no immediate experience with them), the American Federation of Teachers is no fan of hers. AFT president Randi Weingarten is on record as saying, "The sum total of [DeVos's] involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation."

Patronage has existed for centuries. A logrolling technique was revealed in New York's School Construction Authority agency decades ago – unable to create jobs for their own family members, staffers would hire each other's wives as secretaries and assistants. When one such secretary was fired for rank incompetence, her husband retaliated by firing his coworker's wife. She sued – thus exposing the ruse and creating a massive scandal and a host of new anti-nepotism regulations.

But I have a more personal reason to oppose DeVos. I've seen the effects of partisan patronage at work and it was damaging and unfair to a large community of people, with ripple effects that are still being felt.

A decade ago, my older son was enrolled in a special education program. After the first year, we were informed that he was being shifted to a classroom setting in a different public school in Queens. I attended an introductory session in the late spring at the new school, prior to the end of his first year at the initial public school.

It was a veritable lovefest. The principal informed us that she was retiring after 17 years but assured everyone that her longtime assistant would  be taking over. Everyone was laughing, saying "It's a family here, your kids will be an integral part of a larger community at our school."

Smash-cut to September. I discovered that my son's classroom was kept isolated. The kids didn't even have lunch in the general cafeteria because instructors were worried that the noise and commotion would distract or upset them, or worse, that the children wouldn't eat.

More troubling, my son was going from a fully-integrated class (10 typical and spectrum children) to four spectrum children. Where is the integration? At a hastily-scheduled meeting with the principal, assurances were made that once a week – for one period (40 minutes) the four children would  be brought into one of the "typical" kindergarten classes.

It was then that the truth was determined – this new principal was NOT the former assistant to the retiring principal. She was, in fact, a longtime high-ranking staff member at the New York Department of Education. After serving as a desk jockey for decades, she decided to pull rank, call in favors, and secure a position at a school. The rug was pulled out from under the retiring principal. Her assistant, rather than serve under this unqualified woman, also retired. The school was thrown into some disarray. The new principal put many unpopular policies into play. She locked down communications. She micro-managed. Her door might be open, but she was not going to see you on a moment's notice.

At a special education event at Queens College, my (then) wife ran into groups from our son's original public school as well as this new school. The group from the former school greeted her warmly and they all sat together – including the principal. The staff from the new school acknowledged her presence; the teachers sat in one location and the principal sat elsewhere.

My son floundered in this new setting. He developed a series of nervous ticks and behavioral issues. He regressed in his language skills. He regressed in social settings with typical children. For several weeks, his class did not integrate with the typical kindergarten class. My son clearly missed his interactions with the children he had met. His instructor preferred to communicate through a notebook sent home every day. But she would simply not respond about this issue. Finally I dropped off our son, walked past the distracted security guard, and went into the classroom to ask her directly why this was happening.

When I picked up my son that day, there was a note from the principal requesting a meeting. I attempted to go into the office and meet with her then and there, but the secretary said she was busy but I could come back the next morning. I was asked why I ignored security.

"I merely wanted to ask the teacher a question," I responded.

"Isn't that what the communication book is for?" I was told.

"Yes, but the teacher was not answering."

"Well, the instructors are busy with other things at the end of the day," she said.

"There are four children in the class. There is an assistant and an occupational therapist who pushes in. She did not answer this question, when asked directly for three days."

The principal paused. "Then you should have contacted me, and I would have instructed the teacher to answer your question."

"Alright," I said, "this class is supposed to integrate on a regular basis with the kindergarten. Why don't the children eat lunch in the regular cafeteria? Why aren't they part of the regular music program? Why are they completely isolated? We were told that they would be fully integrated into the school."

The principal nodded. "Yes, but that was before the class was established. Now we are working to integrate the children."

"Alright," I said, "When is the regular music class for kindergarten?"

"I can find that out for you."

"When is the regular gym period? When is the regular art period?"

She stopped me. "Your children are in a special program. There schedule does not match up with all of the regular activities."

"Then they are not being fully integrated and we were lied to," I said, "Which is something I will take up with the Department of Education."

Her eyes narrowed but I continued. "These children are being treated like something is wrong with them. Don't think they don't notice they are segregated. It is affecting them. It is definitely affecting my son."

"Mr. Cohen, I will look into your concerns and get back to you."

The next day, the teacher finally wrote a note about the integration – the kindergarten teacher had arbitrarily switched the period between two activities. And my son's teacher refused to alter HER schedule so the four kids could still have integrated play time.

At this point, we made an attempt to pass a note directly to the teacher in the regular kindergarten class. My (then) wife wrote a note, told the security guard she was going to the office, and left the note in her mailbox. Aha! The secretary realized that the mailbox was not the one for my son's teacher.

That afternoon, there was an official sealed envelope from the principal in my son's folder. It was a document stating our letter had been "intercepted," that it was "inappropriate to communicate with teachers other than our child's," and that this "incident" would be noted in our son's record at the school.

Long story short, we limited our involvement at that school. I had attended every PTA meeting at the previous school, even volunteering to edit their parent newsletter (which included finding a new printer, saving them thousands of dollars in the process). This became akin to serving the rest of a prison sentence. At the end of the school year, my son was given a private placement, mainly because the school administration realized how badly they – under this unqualified principal – had botched this special needs program. Luckily my son went to a different school and we "worked out" the kinks over the next year or two. Meanwhile, we were told to save the horror story until he "aged out," to dispel any retaliation.

The moral is that patronage rarely works. Giving a job to someone who demands it due to seniority, favoritism, or in return for financial donations, does not make them instantly qualified. In most instances, it should automatically disqualify them.

Massachusetts Senator Maggie Hassan (who has a disabled son) realized during the hearing that DeVos didn't know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act exists. Betsy DeVos is a woman who craves to shape a department she is ill-equipped to run. Much like the Affordable Care Act, she wants to dismantle an existing (though flawed) system before having something ready to put in its place.

Realizing her inherent flaws, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, limited questioning to five minutes per representative. DeVos declined, under questioning, to say whether she plans to rein in the Office for Civil Rights, which investigates allegations of discrimination in schools. Asked by gun control advocate Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy – whose constituents include Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary – whether she would support Trump if he moves forward with his proposal to ban gun-free school zones, DeVos said she would “support what the president-elect does.”

I have no doubt that DeVos's attorneys and sycophantic aides told her how great she did under pressure. Considering the division between the major political parties, it is probable she will fly through confirmation. But I warn parents to remain vigilant. If you did not advocate for your children before, or support their schools, now is the time. Betsy DeVos is a dangerous, affluent woman. She will be out of office and back home, sipping a drink poured by a servant and sighing, "Well, we tried," while tens of thousands of school children deal with the fallout from her ineffective, poorly-conceived charter school initiatives.

Donald Trump has nominated the wealthiest, most grossly inadequate group of people to serve him on his cabinet. It is an insult to the American people. And Betsy DeVos may be the most egregious slap in the face.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
It's An Adventure – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
To and Fro – Cat Doorman
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 13, 2017

Big Buncha Buddies – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
That Way – Chibi Kodama

New Bouncy Buddies from Munslow, Brewer

Some years ago, veteran children's music performer Bill Harley drew Keith Munslow into his circle. That resulted in a great friendship and partnership, witnessed in many concerts and a joint CD a few years ago. Now Keith is "paying it forward," and bringing newcomer Bridget Brewer into the kindie world with BIG BUNCHA BUDDIES.

Originally co-conspirators in the local comedy improvisation troupe The Empire Revue, Keith and Bridget worked on sketch material together. After a while, that camaraderie translated into songs for children. Even while Bridget was traveling through Mexico City writing a book, the duo used Google chat sessions to hammer out songs like "Jilly the Ghost" and "Stick Pony," which carries a Roy Rogers/Dale Evans by way of Okee-Dokee Brothers feel.

Keith has much experience as a storytelling on his own, however the Harley influence is keenly felt on "What Was a Bad Idea," where the two protagonists declare their latest scheme started out with good intentions but somehow went wrong. "Why Did You Teach Me That Word" will engage parents as well as children, teaching a valuable lesson about the right time and situations to, let's say, expand your vocabulary.

The only limitations to this partnership appear to be geographical. Keith and Bridget are simply on different continents, literally. That won't stop youngsters from sharing the tales of "The Loneliest Whale" and "Stray Dog." Once the duo get their feet inside the same state, in the same county, it will be possible for them to promote BIG BUNCHA BUDDIES together. This CD is a nice way to start the new year, hopefully helping your kids slow down and not grow up so fast. And buddy around.

BIG BUNCHA BUDDIES is available from Keith's website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of "Coffee Breath" from Keith's performance on Long Island last year:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I Like LARD (In Other Words, A New Free Song)

It's 2017! With all the uncertainty, division, and unrest in the world, shouldn't we be thinking about things we like? That's definitely the impetus behind the new, FREE single from Lard Dog & The Band of Shy.

New York's favorite up-and-coming oddballs of children's music have announced a new album coming this fall. In the meantime, they plan to release a new song every month in 2017, similar to what Mista Cookie Jar accomplished in 2015 (and Cat Doorman announced, but did not succeed in doing).  So kids' musicians have a 50/50 record in actually completing this task.

The plan for the new year starts with “I Like” already a fan favorite from the band's live show. As a bonus, the track can be downloaded for free during the month of January.

That's right, free music. Free kids' music. A free song. Click here to download "I Like," a free kids' music song from Lard Dog & The Band of Shy. The band performed the tune at last weekend's Hootenanny in Brooklyn and it went over well, like skipping in the breeze.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 5, 2017

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Christmas In The Big House – They Might Be Giants
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Mom (feat. Kelli Trainor) – Meghan Trainor
Only One You  – Danny Weinkauf

Children's Music: Optimism Versus Happiness

People who know nothing about children's music often confuse "optimism" with "happiness." There is a clear distinction, as I determined this past year.

I went through a number of life changes over the past 18 months. It was a whole Chinese restaurant menu of water tortures, and believe me, I wouldn't wish any combination special on most people.

Throughout the entire sad process, the one constant was children's music. As if in a daze, sometimes a funk, sometimes a mania, I perpetuated a steady output of previews, event recaps with photos and videos, and reviews.

I may have been sleep-deprived. I may not have eaten properly for days or weeks. But I kept to a schedule, attempting to get to everything within a two-week window of its release date.

And children's music became my Rock of Gibraltar. If I had an especially ominous interaction or could not turn off the conversations in my head, I turned on the next CD in my queue. These were not necessarily "happy" tunes. But overall, they diffused my dark mood so I could wake to face another day.

During the summer of 2015, I felt that my world had hit rock bottom (boy was I ever wrong). I took my older son (then 14) out to the beach, where he was only 17 miles from a special camp program. This gave him five hours of hands-on activity, for eight weekdays. Except it splintered the family and I witnessed a profound loneliness in him. He missed his younger brother, his shadow and protector. He could FaceTime with him and their mother. Occasionally he'd say "I'm sad" or "I'm okay," and I put my hand on his shoulder and we'd walk through town and make observations about people and stores and music. A lot about pop music that summer.

In retrospect, I can't imagine how I held it together at different junctions. I brought two CDs to review while we stayed at the beach. One of them was Renee & Friends' SIMPATICO. It contained the most emotionally devastating song I heard that year, "You Were Meant to Be" (duet with Glenn Phillips). It's a love song to a child, declaring that his or her birth was no accident, that the child turned a man and a woman into a family. It was a gut punch and I cried when it played. The second time through, I intentionally ensured my son was in the car so I could will myself not to tear up. No, it's not a happy children's song. But it's optimistic.

A month later I had a similar moment with Tim Kubart's Grammy-winning CD, HOME. It's a celebration of childhood, family, and shared bonding experiences. The first time I heard the title track, "Last Turn Home," I was driving back to the house with both sons. It had been a long day and they'd drifted off. But we were approaching the house, their home, the only home they've both ever known. The home and the family that I knew were coming to a close. I gripped the steering wheel tight with both hands and read between the lyrics. The song is about a journey, and the destination isn't really important as long as there's love there. Again, not entirely a happy children's song. But it's optimistic.

The closing track of HOME is called "Moving Day," which reinforces the album's concept of family as people and not a place. That theme became my mantra in 2016, when I repeatedly went through the "five stages," thinking I'd finished with two or three only to cycle back to the beginning. By the summer, we had relocated. By October, the bussing situation was rectified and the boys began to settle into their routines. I accepted some absences in my life. I filled some holes in my schedule. I continued to attend concerts, shoot videos, and write reviews.

What was it about children's music more that drew me in, when by all rights I could have blasted death metal, or played dramatic operas, or danced around to show tunes? Simply put, there's no hidden agenda. With an absence of irony and a commitment to building positive values, children's music is about inclusion and being forward-thinking. You can't wallow when you have a child whose needs come before your own. You can't be narcissistic and play your favorite comfort CD from college, even if it bores the kids to tears since they can't relate to it.

Children's music gave me an uplifting release. It focused me. It helped me obtain and move toward some form of acceptance, even when there were scheduling conflicts, soul-sucking emails, or the continued existence of people I could not – nor ever plan – to stomach.

That's the putative salvation of children's music that is often misread. It's not all happy. There's no Morrissey for six-year-olds. Even Amy Lee (Evanescence) put out a delightful, cheery CD this year, DREAM TOO MUCH. You don't have to be happy to be optimistic and that's the promise of children's music. Broke a toy? Split your time between mommy and daddy? Scared of new foods? Kids can change emotions in the span of a drumbeat. It may only take one note of a special song from a fun performer. It could even be that eerie song about things going bump in the night. Because kids might not be happy when that occurs, but morning is going to come and daylight will turn that ghost into a sweater on the doorknob. They're not happy about it, but they're optimistic. That's a true super power and it's why I still enjoy children's music.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Get Loose – Father Goose feat. Little Goose
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Soar  – Mo Phillips
The Word – Caspar Babypants

Monday, January 02, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, January 3, 2017

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts
To and Fro – Cat Doorman

Life's a Hootenanny; Kelly Standup and Pinecones Roar

You're never supposed to have regrets. Live life to the fullest and if you missed something, consider it an opportunity to self-correct in the future.

That's just what I'm going to do next weekend. In January 2016, a group of children's music-loving adults gathered in Brooklyn to talk, network, and sing songs – not necessarily kid's songs. There's a community out there and I dropped the ball. On January 7, 2017, I'm gonna pick up that ball and throw it back into play.

It's a bit of a trek (and not direct) but I'll get down to Jalopy in Red Hook for Hootenanny with a ton of people I've reviewed, met, or interacted with via social media. Spare the Rock's Bill Childs and PR maven Stephanie Mayers spearheaded the gathering, which came from the coffee grinds of Kindiefest.

As for the lineup, oh gosh I'm agog – Jazzy Ash, Billy Kelly (the Billy Kelly) doing standup, Sugar Free Allstars, Lloyd H. Miller, Uncle Rock (perhaps as responsible for my foray into children's music blogging as much as Bill and Elizabeth Waldman), Dean Jones, and oh so many more.

If you're in the area, or from around the area, or a fan of enthusiastic local music, it's a chance to meet like-minded people in the new year. Here's the 411.

Here's a video of Ashley Albert (formerly of the Jimmies) and ex-bandmate (and minted Grammy winner) Tim Kubart singing "Suddenly Seymour" from "Little Shop of Horrors" at last year's gathering:

Speaking of Billy Kelly, he is kicking off a "residency" program at the Peoples Improv Theater on East 24th Street on (the same) Saturday, January 7 at 3 pm (repeating February 4 and March 4). We saw Mr. Kelly do his little act at the Brokerage on Long Island in November and there was much merriment (despite a tough crowd of pre-teens).

January 7 is going to be a big day for kid's music as jazz-themed JoJo and the Pinecones bring in the New Year with a show at Lincoln Center. It's aimed at 2-5 year-olds, so they'll need to bring an adult to supervise. On the other hand, it's a free performance, unlike the other two shows listed above. That's right – get yourself to Lincoln Center for free kids music as part of "Artists at the Atrium." Thus ends this portion of my public service message.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Ben's New Year's Day Playlist - Monday, January 2, 2017

Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Free Ride Everyday – Lori Henriques
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
Solar Flares – Mo Phillips