Jazzy January, Part 1 – Diana Panton

If you read my post about A Charlie Brown Christmas, I mentioned that as a child I didn’t have much exposure to pure jazz music. That was for a couple of reasons. One, musicals were on high rotation in our house and two, there wasn’t any jazz whose target audience was children. Unfortunately, a few decades later, and there still isn’t a lot of jazz music for children. This is why I decided to highlight a couple of my favorite musicians creating jazz for children who released albums in the last bit of 2019. 

For Part 1 of this two-part series, I’d like to introduce you to Diana Panton. Panton first came on the scene in 2005 as a performer for adults, but in 2017 she released I Believe in Little Things, her first album for children and families, which went on to win a JUNO award (the Canadian version of the GRAMMY). I was lucky to be able to interview Diana Panton for School Library Journal in July 2017 as well as review I Believe in Little Things.  

In October 2019, Panton’s second album for children, ACheerful Little Earful was released. As with her previous album, Earful features Panton’s light and breezy solo voice, this time accompanied by George Shearing Quartet members, jazz greats Don Thompson and Reg Schwager. According to Panton, where I Believe in Little Things was a good way to unwind at the end of the day, A Cheerful Little Earful is “a sunny way to start the day!” And what better way to start the day than with opening track and South Pacific charmer, “Happy Talk.” Not one to shy away from unconventional song choices, Panton draws upon music from older musicals like “Look to the Rainbow” from Finian’s Rainbow as well as songs from classic films such as “It’s a Most Unusual Day” from A Date with Judy and the Academy Award nominee (1945) “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” from The Bells of St. Mary’s.

Along the way, Diana Panton further diversifies the selections on this fifteen track album, including “Red Red Robin,” the Cole Porter tune, “Experiment” and “ ‘A’ You’re Adorable.” Two not-to-be-missed tunes are the title track “A Cheerful Little Earful” which was originally made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and “All in the Golden Afternoon” from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland which Panton beautifully performs in both French and English.

A Cheerful Little Earful is the perfect way to not only introduce children to the warm, soothing sounds of jazz but to give them an introduction to the incomparable music from the Great American Songbook.

Choose Kind

“I believe the children are our future/Teach them well and let them lead the way.” ~Whitney Houston, “Greatest Love of All”

“I believe the children are our future…”
These lyrics have been running through my head for several weeks now. It first started in late November when I attended a meeting at our local school district. Several of the attendees were wearing really eye-catching t-shirts that said “Choose Kind.” A quick inquiry and several emails later and the entire Youth Services department at my public library were wearing the same t-shirt. To us the message is a crucial reminder to the young people (and the adults too) that in even some of the most difficult circumstances, we should always try to choose kind.

“Teach them well and let them lead the way…”
In the middle of December, I was once again reminded of the lyrics from “Greatest Love of All” when Greta Thunberg was named one of Time magazine’s persons of the year. Thunberg is just the latest in a line of young people, like Malala Yousafzai and the students of Parkland, who are more courageous than most adults by standing up for what they believe in in incredibly public ways. These folks are thoughtful and eloquent and push the rest of us to step out from behind our devices and be brave in our beliefs.

“Show them all the beauty they possess inside…”
Finally, a couple of weeks ago I received the “Love to end the decade” enewsletter from Alphabet Rockers. In the email they highlighted the incredible story of 11-year-olds Lily and Kaia who led children from around the world in making 15,000 origami butterflies that were displayed at the United States Capitol on November 20 in support of migrant children. The story of this undertaking is told through the beautiful, stirring video {see below} for the Alphabet Rockers’s song, “Until You’re Free” (feat. SaulPaul and 123 Andrés). The Butterfly Project proved that when children get together, the strongest message can be conveyed in the most beautiful, unforgettable way.

My goal for 2020 is to be like the children. To be brave and stand up for what I believe in, to act when I see injustices, and above all, to Choose Kind. For the children really are our future and it’s up to us to support and guide them as they lead the way.