Friday, September 27, 2019

Quick Hits: Koo Koo Kanga Roo's Salad, Lucy Kalantari Halloween Tune

Koo Koo Kanga Roo are poised for a touring swing to support new music. The latest video to their song, "Salad," is just as amusing and clever as past favorites. View it below, and click through to their Web site for upcoming appearances.

Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari (and the Jazz Cats) have released a Halloween mini-set. You can grab the set list on Soundcloud.

Their brand now song, "Flick of My Wrist," is the story of a young witch who
goes a little too power-crazy, and learns that there are penalties for your misdeeds or wrong-headed thinking. The Jazz Cats provide ably backup, and the song even features a six-year-old cello (admittedly, her own son).

You can listen to "Flick of My Wrist" on Amazon and her website.

And here it is, now on YouTube:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Andrew and Polly Go For the Moon

Andrew (Barkan) and Polly (Hall) know something that I don't. Which is why they record children's music and I write about it. Who would have though to turn Smashmouth's "All-Star" into a natural kid's tune? That's the lead track on their new CD, GO FOR THE MOON, and all I could say was "Well, of course it is." The sentiment comes from the famous speech by President John F. Kennedy, where he challenged America to win the space race. Smashmouth dropped the sound bite into their original 1999 track, and A&P have remixed it for maximum impact.

The popular Los Angeles duo have mind-melded with kids around the country over healthy snacks ("Grapes") and goopy phantoms ("Ghostbusters"). Their latest release stays the course and advances the cause, whether it's the inability to recall what to call a mommy friend ("Mom's Name" with SiriusXM favorite Mike Phirman), laughing your brass off with corny jokes ("Brass Chuckles"), or getting giddy about a field trip ("Aquarium," featuring frequent collaborator Mista Cookie Jar).

Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari (becoming a ubiquitous children's music presence these days) guests on the laconic sketch "Three Chartreuse Buzzards." And when I commented, "This sounds familiar," at the start of "Garden Of Your Mind," Ben promptly reminded me 'It's Mr. Rogers," which made me more happy than I ever imagined. When he was younger, PBS was showing episodes of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood twice a week. I recorded two months worth and burned them onto DVDs, which he watched with what I thought was tepid interest. But something did stick in his memory.

Andrew and Polly also host the musical podcast, "Ear Snacks" that teaches kids about the world. Each episode highlights music, science, art and culture in an all-inclusive, family-friendly environment for parents and their children. See below for a recent episode.

The duo have a propensity for sprinkling kindie dust on miscellaneous musical entrees and reimagining them for young listeners. Pete Townsend's "Let My Love Open The Door" was a 2018 revelation. GO FOR THE MOON's "All-Star" undergoes the same transformation. However, Roger Miller's "You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd" remains a tough chestnut to crack. Even so, GO FOR THE MOON is a mirthful, entertaining concoction of treats for developing senses, sensitivities, and sensibilities.

GO FOR THE MOON is available on September 27 from Andrew and Polly's website, CDBABY, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the Ear Snacks podcast, "Road Trip Mixtape 2019":

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Friday, September 20, 2019

Backstroke Raptor – Story Pirates
Belching Fire – Purple Fox and the Heebie Jeebies
Clown Shoes – Ratboy Jr.
El Corazon – The Lucky Band
Finally – Franz Ferdinand
Stumble Into You – Jack Forman
You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd – Andrew & Polly

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

All Star – Andrew & Polly
Flexible Brain – Ratboy Jr.
Lazy Boy – Franz Ferdinand
The Man – Taylor Swift
Me And You – Caspar Babypants
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions
People Watching – Dean Jones

A Royal Return for Duke Otherwise

What did people do before television? Well, there was radio. What did people do before radio? Well, there was music. For centuries. It's the most constant form of entertainment and it can be made by anyone. That doesn't mean that just anyone should make music, but that's another story. You can make music anywhere, using almost anything as your instrument. And in the dark and cold of winter, that's a delightful distraction from the possibility of frostbite and worse.

Which brings us to Wisconsin's Duke Otherwise, who recorded his third CD, KITH & KIN, in a lake cabin in the middle of a frigid winter. His name seems to indicate jazz roots (i.e., Ellington vs Otherwise), but Mr. Otherwise instead harkens back to folk traditions on tracks like "Yodeling Lament," which ends with a manic rap riff. Spoiler alert: Although Mr. Otherwise claims a proficiency in many vocations, the yodeling on this song was completed by a less yodeling-impaired performer.

Mr. Otherwise talks the talk for young audiences. When a third grader's fancy turns to their teachers, he delivers the wistful "Elementary Crush," where the protagonist imagines marriage will end his penmanship homework (except for carving their names in a tree). There's an interstitial saga of a mother passive-aggressively ordering her son Billy to put down his sister (no spoiler here). The siblings on "Twins" insist they are alike, while the lyrics say otherwise. "Eats Like You" spins some fanciful wordplay describing animals and their dining habits in comparison to a picky child:

I know a ferret who likes to eat carrots
A popcorn-poppin' parrot who never wants to share it
A muffin-eating puffin, a turkey who stuffs himself with stuffing
I know a turtle who loves to eat tufu
But I've never met anyone who eats like you

Sentimentally, Mr. Otherwise goes back to the genesis of music as original entertainment on KITH & KIN's closer, "Always Home." He sings about everyone living so far away and how cold it is outside (although it's ostensively about animals in their shells and burrows). The modern world has become a smaller place through social media and interconnectivity, but Mr. Otherwise shows that children (most of whom don't have Facebook accounts) are acutely aware of the enormity of our planet. He addresses their concerns with a deft touch, humor, and even a tap dance. It may not be a frigid night in a lakeside cabin, but KITH & KIN sounds like home anywhere.

KITH & KIN is available on Duke Otherwise's website, Amazon, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Here is a live performance of Duke singing "What Kind of Hairdo Do You Do?":

Friday, September 13, 2019

Quick Hits: New Music from ScribbleMonster and Uncle Dox

As the leaves begin to crinkle and brown, ready for their descent from the trees, children's music artists' focus turns as well. Indeed, I can report on new songs from Uncle Dox and the long-absent ScribbleMonster.

It's been a while since ScribbleJim and ScribbleJayne released new material, but the band has turned to children's books in the break (three to date), and continued their live performances. And apparently there's a Greatest Hits compilation coming in 2020. In the meantime, here's "Amazing Brain," their power-pop, positive-values ode to using your noodle and not taking yourself for granted.

Take a listen now at Soundcloud. And find their catalog now on Amazon Music

Uncle Dox has issued "Laser Beam Eyes," a 1980s rap throwback with sound effects that will satisfy all video game players (from two generations). And there's more to come in the near future.

You can find "Laser Beam Eyes" on SoundcloudSpotifyBandcamp, and Facebook.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Oran Etkin Speaks to Children Through World Music

Children's music and music education are not mutually exclusive. But organically fusing the two concepts is a risky proposition. Get too preachy and the kids won't go for it. Yet if you're too obtuse, you do your source material a disservice. Internationally acclaimed jazz clarinetist and composer Oran Etkin looked for a way to build deep musical connections across cultural boundaries. The initial result was the Timbalooloo method of introducing young children to music. The second – a resulting CD of musical selections – is now a reality, as FINDING FRIENDS FAR FROM HOME: A JOURNEY WITH CLARA NET.

Passing on the joy of music through generations is Oran's mission. To manifest his destiny, in 2005 he founded Timbalooloo, which re-imagines teaching children to become fluent in the language of music. Timbalooloo uses a creative alternative approach to music education, as well as concert performances, recordings and video content, engaging children around the world to speak an international language of music with the same fluency as their mother tongue.

FINDING FRIENDS FAR FROM HOME was recorded and filmed on location in Zimbabwe, Turkey, Czech Republic, Japan, and China with representatives of each country’s traditional music as well as instruments indigenous to that region. Oran uses the concept of his instrument (Clara Net the clarinet) as a method of communication (hence, speaking through song to the world). For instance, the song "Kutapira" was recorded with Musekiwa Chingodza, a Zimbabwean spiritual master of the mbira (thumb piano).  On other tracks, Clara and Oran interact with new instrument friends like the accordion, kopuz, balalaika, and shamisen. These instruments have individual personalities (discussed during introductory pieces before each song) that evoke a range of feelings, from joy and humor, to weariness and sadness.

There are lullabies, dancing songs, and fanciful tales of nature on FINDING FRIENDS FAR FROM HOME. You wouldn't think a two-string musical instrument could convey emotion. But that's what happens on the Japanese "Mo Li Hua." Oran merges his love for disparate cultures and bringing together children with the music native to those regions. His accomplishment is showcasing that music is indeed a language that expresses intense emotion for young children. FINDING FRIENDS FAR FROM HOME may inspire children to investigate in more depth than they're used to; music is indeed a worldwide adventure for Oran Etkin. Have clarinet, will travel.

FINDING FRIENDS FAR FROM HOME: A JOURNEY WITH CLARA NET is available from TimbaloolooApple Music, and Amazon.

Here is the video for Oran's song, "Kutapira":

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Quick Hits: From Jazz to Hip-Hop With Camille Harris, Father Goose

Jazz is making a comeback. Jazz fans may object to that wording and declare "jazz doesn't NEED to make a comeback, it's doing fine!" But they wouldn't argue that more jazz appreciation wouldn't be a bad thing. To wit, a resurgence of jazz-infused children's music, including defending Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari. Now Brooklyn's own Camille Harris resumes her so-called silly jazz contributions with her fourth CD, BABY ON THE SUBWAY.

A veteran of musical theater and stand-up comedy, Camille uses her quirky sense of humor and unique toolbox to bang new life into such chestnuts as "Muffin Man," "Old MacDonald," and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." The CD opens with “Jiggly Wiggly,” featuring a strong Latin accent and a trumpet solo by Wayne Tucker. The title track (see video below) brings to vivid life how cute infants unite everyone across a swath of cultural differences. Driving through Long Island, both my kids fell into a familiar, friendly singalong for "Wheels on the Bus" (how can you not?). I dared them to attempt Camille's "The Backwards Alphabet" and won that bet.

Camille uses her jazz to demonstrate that children's music has many forms. You don't need to walk a thin line between folk and funk. There are a bunch of other options, some right in your own backyard. Camille represents the growing number of independent-thinking, diverse, and reflective performers finding ways to introduce contemporary, classic genres to young audiences.

BABY ON THE SUBWAY is available on September 13 from Camille Harris's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video for the title track, "Baby on the Subway":

Father Goose returns with a new five-song EP, I CAN MAKE IT, filled with hip-hop powerful pop tunes. Goose and crew drop the following songs – "I Wanna Dan
ce With U," "Kidzzz (Want To Be Free)," "By The Beach," and the title track. Goose keeps the house party moving, through his force of nature personality, charisma, and natural ability to lead kids through dancing and call-and-response songs.

The Goose Trotters (an ever-expanding assemblage of East Coast performers) includes Vic Rosario, Danni Ai, Delilah Lady Delish Tollinchi, Steve A. Williams, and too many more to list here. But they all come together to provide solid beats and sound messages.

Grab I CAN MAKE IT from the Goose Hut or Bandcamp.