Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
That's My Style – The Bazillions
Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf

Monday, October 30, 2017

Joanie Leeds, Nightlights Spook Up a Storm at Symphony Space

A kid with special needs will occasionally pull a rabbit out a hat. "The last time we were here was in March for Lucky Diaz," Ben told me as we entered the Thalia Theater at Symphony Space this past weekend. "I spoke to Lucky about Billy Joel." That was indeed true, but real life moves at such light speed that it took Ben's verbal Post-It note to bring back a sudden flood of memories.

So it was indeed seven months between concerts at one of our favorite city venues. In the meantime, we've seen plenty of live music, including a Long Island appearance by the act we traveling to see on Saturday – Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights. However this was a difference iteration of the ensemble, gone acoustic and celebratory-themed for the morning, with many children (and adults) in attendance wearing Halloween costumes.

One of the perks of being a kindie community insider (of sorts) is learning about a performance prior to its occurrence. So I knew that Joelle Lurie of JoJo and the Pinecones would be a special guest, joining Joanie for two songs at the end of the set... although I was badly out of position when she finally took to the stage to sing vocal for "Love Is Love" and the a cappella "Stoop." Joelle is one of the new wave of kindie jazz acts to emerge of late, which includes Lucy Kalantari, Jazzy Ash, and Lori Henriques.

Symphony Space's Just Kidding program has been delighting and entertaining youth from around the region for years. We've been going since Ben was less than three years old and he still delights in the talents on display, even if he is the oldest kid in the room. You can hear him answering some of questions posed to the crowd by Joanie in her introductions. The trio (Joanie, Scott Stein, and Jeff Litman) ran through a set list that went back to her first CD (the song "Ice Cream"). While there were a number of hands raised for first-time attendees to a Leeds' concert, a number of people were clearly veterans who knew Joanie's favorite color is green (the song "I Wanna Be Green"). Joelle has strong chops as well, and her voice blended right into the harmonies (as you can hear on the two videos), in addition to belting out verses on "Love Is Love."

The Just Kidding series continues next week with bilingual rock from Future Hits (11/4). Down the road are puppets, more music, and theater events. Click through and check the calendar.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 30, 2017

Summer's Here – The Bazillions
Lost And Loving It  – Kepi Ghoulie
Holiday Jam – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
The Great Divide – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Drink Up  – Train

Monday, October 23, 2017

Symphony Space: Just Kidding 2017-18 Rolls With Joanie Leeds

Something always slips through the cracks during the autumn season. For me, it was the start of Symphony Space's Just Kidding Kids series. But we're remedying that situation today – and will be there Saturday, October 28 for the concert by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights.

Just Kidding Kids is the long-running series of events that includes not only concerts, but theater and interactive performances. Coming up November 11 is a puppet show – Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers: Everybody Loves Pirates. Further along Elizabeth Mitchell (November 18), Billy Kelly (December 16), the Experiential Theater Company presents Journey to Oz (January 13), and a very special show featuring the 2017 nominees for Best Children's Album (January 27).

There's oh so much more – but there's a whole subsection of the Symphony Space website dedicated to the 2017-18 season. Click on through and check it out. We'll be there for some shows!

Here is my video of Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights performing "Ferry Nice" at last month's Kidstock:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Matt's Playlist - Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ben – Zee Avi
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Grapes – Andrew & Polly
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Hello Goodbye – Caspar Babypants
Hey Jude  – Caspar Babypants

Friday, October 20, 2017

Kid Pan Alley Lets Kids Write The Tunes

What if everybody could write a song? That seems like a grand concept, except that most people don't have either the equipment, the time, the experience, or the idea of where to start. Kid Pan Alley was founded to give children a safe harbor and a window into the world of music. Their new CD, ONE LITTLE SONG CAN CHANGE THE WORLD, is a collection of tunes written with classrooms of kids. It doesn't seek to change the world as much as let people know that things like this are even possible.

The Kid Pan Alley program promotes ideals such as teamwork, creative thinking, and respect for intellectual property (I wonder if they have a PowerPoint on Spotify royalties). We do this by keeping them engaged and giving them the power to create something unique, lasting and completely their own. ONE LITTLE SONGis about respect for others, the environment, the community and ourselves. The songs are recorded by the Kid Pan Alley band, which includes Grammy nominated vocalists.

Kid Pan Alley is the brainchild of Paul Reisler, and the program has been cultivating young minds since 1999.

ONE LITTLE SONG goes high in its concepts, but you can point the finger at the fevered little minds getting the opportunity to set the table. Songs cover "I Don't Think So, You're a Bully," "Don't Put Me Down, Or My Dog," and "True To Me." It certainly provides a wonderful vocal showcase for performers such as Lea Morris, Heath Francis, Ysaye Barnwell, Jason McGlory, Justin Hopkins, Vance Gilbert, and Alison Rapetti. But in reality, my kids have been exposed to so many songs with these concepts – by artists they are familiar with – that the treatments here didn't really engage them.

ONE LITTLE SONG is a neat little curio and probably worth a listen for the families of the kids involved. However music education in disparate forms continues to be an important curriculum and should be supported. To that end, Kid Pan Alley is a worthwhile project and definitely has its ear (and eye) on bringing children into the world of music.

ONE LITTLE SONG CAN CHANGE THE WORLD is available at iTunes, Amazon, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for the song, "Don't Put Me Down, Or My Dog":

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 20, 2017

How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
You Better Believe – Train
What The World Needs Now Is Love – Lisa Loeb
Who, What, When, Where, Why – The Bazillions
That Way – Chibi Kodama
I Feel Better – Caspar Babypants

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Hanukkah Rocks – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
I Love The Night – Gustafer Yellowgold
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions
Free Couch – Caspar Babypants
Window – Gustafer Yellowgold
To and Fro – Cat Doorman

Quick Hits: Kalantari Jazzed for Holidays, Cookie Jar Gets Socked

When I started this entry, there was a subliminal slip and I typed "Lucky" instead of "Lucy." That's appropriate for Lucy Kalantari, who returns with her ensemble, the Jazz Cats, for their timely-titled IT'S THE HOLIDAYS! EP.

Since it's only five tracks I can list them all – the spooky, peppy, "My Mommy Is a Mummy," which is currently charting on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live, "Grateful," "It's Snowing," "That's a Wrap," and the title track. With that brevity, the kids may still be opening gifts under the tree while the songs are playing.

Grab IT'S THE HOLIDAYS from Lucy's website and Amazon.

Mista Cookie Jar returns this month with “The Quest for the Missing Polka-Dotted Pink Sock." It's not exactly a Halloween themed piece, but is an epic tale of a grand pursuit for his missing foot dressing. The LA-based kid-hop maven delivers an auto-tuned ride to the mall:

You can flaunt that eyelet cuff.
You can rock that pastel tie.
Only you can tell yourself
how to put color in yo' sky.
Me, I like that pink & polka-dotted
pattern in my pupil.
It's the icing on my ensemble.
It's kinda super crucial. 

Who knew that wardrobe selections could be so empowering? "The Quest for the Missing Polka-Dotted Pink Sock" is available at CDBABY, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 16, 2017

O-O-O Child – Lisa Loeb
Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day – Danny Weinkauf
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Brighter Side – Gustafer Yellowgold
Have A Good Day – Lard Dog & The Band Of Shy
Not Today – Imagine Dragons

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brady Rymer's Holiday Rocks

The holidays are (almost) upon us and thus the festive music season has begun. First and foremost (so far) is Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could with their latest CD, REVVIN' UP THE REINDEER. Long Island native son Rymer and his ensemble sing of good cheer, great presents, and the excitement that accompanies the onset of winter for children.

REVVIN' UP THE REINDEER leads off with its period piece title track, with Andrews Sisters-style vocals (featuring bandmates Liz Queler and Claudia Glaser Mussen). "Holiday Jam" and "Hanukkah TIme" follow with the almost-obligatory references to other religious celebrations that seem to mysteriously fall around the same time of year.

The majority of the tracks settle comfortably around the traditional concept of December 25, with "Trim the Tree," "Untangling the Christmas Lights," "Can't Sit Still," "Christmas Peace," and "Christmas Wishes." The infographic for REVVIN' UP THE REINDEER would feature one big, honking "Christmas."

Every band member gets a chance to shine on REVVIN' UP THE REINDEER, from drums to keyboard to accordion on "New Accordions," naturally. The LBTC effortlessly segues through a series of musical stylings, from big band to zydeco to country to folk. "Peace Be To All" closes the CD with a little Jim Croce/John Denver 70s feel.

We've seen Brady and the rest of his troupe (Larry Eagle, Jeremy Chatzky, Seth Farber, and Dan Myers) at different venues multiple times and they always bring the crowd to their feet with accessible, professional, and thoroughly enjoyable performances. Brady can't contain his exuberance to one ensemble, as he divides his time and plays bass for the Laurie Berkner Band. It's pretty much a fait accompli that Brady & Company will swing through the holiday season with a number of gigs to promote REVVIN' UP THE REINDEER and jog happy eggnog memories. Whether you're ho-ho-home for the holidays or down for a live gig, Brady Rymer wishes "Peace Be To All," and to all, a rockin' swingin' solstice.

REVVIN' UP THE REINDEER is available October 20 from Brady Rymer's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the band performing "One Day By the Riverside" earlier this year:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Quick Hits: Videos from Salamanders, Dana & Friends

Recent winners of a Parents' Choice Gold award, the Salamanders have returned with a new music video, "Poppy," from their second album, Bubbles. I'm not big into country – but I'll make an exception for the Salamanders (from Missoula, Montana).

Dana Cohenour (Dana & Friends) are back with another new video, "Do Your Part." Dana hopes kids will be inspired to become more active environmentalists and pay more attention to the world around them. At least they'll jump in and help around the house.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 9, 2017

Bridges – Fifth Harmony
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
O-O-O Child – Lisa Loeb
Thunder – Imagine Dragons

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 6, 2017

Be My Baby – Lisa Loeb
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Relax Your Mind (Featuring Neha Jiwrajka)  – Dan Zanes & Friends
Who's Your Favorite Beatle – Lard Dog & The Band Of Shy
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones

Lilting Lullabies from Lisa Loeb

When you think about some acts (think the Verve Pipe), if you don't know better you wouldn't think they were producing quality children's music in addition to being "day job" rockers. For other musicians such as Lisa Loeb, however, the process feels very much like a natural career progression.

Rather than give a whole career recap (that's what Wikipedia is for), I'll concentrate on the kids phase, which started incidentally a decade ago and has come full-circle to be a major component of her recording career, from CAMP LISA to NURSERY RHYME PARADE! to her latest CD, LULLABY GIRL (an Amazon Music exclusive).

A collection of 13 tracks both new and revisited, LULLABY GIRL takes the familiar ("Dream a Little Dream," "Rainbow Connection," and "All the Pretty Little Horses") and mixes with some new choices (Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" and The Five Stairstep's "O-o-h Child," my favorite on the CD). Loeb also adds two new compositions, "Close Your Eyes" and the title track, which serve as hors d'oeuvres for the rest of the tunes.

Loeb traverses the easy-listening landscape for her selections, from the Disney songbook (a wistful take on "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes") to Burt Bacharach and Hal David (slowing down the classic "What the World Needs Now"). And the LiteFM setting turns "Inch Worm" into a full-on cocktail lounge number. She is served better on the more unconventional (for kids) tracks, as I've lost track of the number of cover versions of "Rainbow Connection."

Ultimately, there's always a place for an eclectic bedtime collection. I was constantly looking for something to swap out with Brahms and Shawn Colvin when Ben was tossing and turning. The road to Slumber Town is paved with good intentions. With LULLABY GIRL, Lisa Loeb is providing a new exit ramp, courtesy of Amazon Music.

LULLABY GIRL is available October 6 exclusively through Amazon Music.

Here is the video for "You Can Count on Me (Lullaby)," which is NOT on this C, ironically.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 5, 2017

Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants
Lost and Found – Train
Put Your Money on Me – Arcade Fire
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Whatever It Takes – Imagine Dragons
Smile For Me – David Tobocman

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Down – Fifth Harmony
Cotton Fields (The Cotton Song) (Featuring Sonia De Los Santos, Elena Moon Park, & José Joaquin Garcia) – Dan Zanes & Friends
Believer – Imagine Dragons
Have Some Fun Out There – David Tobocman
Dreamers – Lard Dog & The Band Of Shy
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Monday, October 02, 2017

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Sings for Kids Worldwide

Lay's Potato Chips had a famous ad campaign 20 years ago with the tag line "Betcha can't eat just one!" The concept was simple – the product was so delicious, so intoxicating, so life-affirming, that nobody could limit themselves to just one. Which led to a bevy of blackout sketches and comedian jokes about chips causing stomach distress, so why WOULD anyone want more than one chip?

Which leads me to the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo. For those who thought the group sprung into existence for Paul Simon's GRACELAND CD, the group came into being in the 1960s. The newest iteration honors the elders of South Africa and celebrates the joys of youth with their new children's album, SONGS OF PEACE & LOVE.

Nelson Mandela designated Ladysmith Black Mambazo as South Africa's cultural ambassadors to the world. They have re-recorded some of their classic material as well as some new tracks, all with introductions that set the tone for the songs, such as "Different Colors Mean Nothing To Me," "Long Walk to Freedom," and especially "Homeless," possibly one of the best collaborations when performed with Paul Simon.

Getting back to my original concept – I'm good with "Homeless." Or "Because I Love You." And for little kids, "Old MacDonald (Zulu Version)." But a whole CD of Ladysmith Black Mambazo was a bit taxing for me. I'd recommend randomizing SONGS OF PEACE & LOVE so the tracks (with intros) get mixed with other artists and genres. Unless you're a mad hardcore fan of world music and Ladysmith Black Mambazo in particular. After all, they're world famous world ambassadors.

SONGS OF PEACE & LOVE is available from Ladysmith Black Mambazo's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the audio (in video form) for "Homeless":

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 2, 2017

Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Electric Blue – Arcade Fire
Tae Kwon Do – Bob and Luc Schneider
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
Rock Island Line (Featuring Billy Bragg) – Dan Zanes & Friends
Kiwi – Harry Styles
Singing Together – David Tobocman