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 Two not-to-be-missed tunes are the title track “A Cheerful Little Earful” which was originally made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and “All in the Golden Afternoon” from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland which Panton beautifully performs in both French and English.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.

Song Spotlight – “Hanukkah on Andromeda” Performed by Lard Dog & The Band of Shy

What do Hanukkah and Andromeda have in common? After listening to the new song from Lard Dog & The Band of Shy several times, I’m still not quite sure, but I am here for it. Just in time for the start of Hanukkah, this little ditty takes the joy of the holiday and turns it up to eleven. Filled with silly, yet informative, lyrics (where else will you hear the words menorah, dreidel, and Spock all in the same sentence) “Hanukkah on Andromeda” tells listeners of the eight days and nights that are the Festival of Lights during this humanoid holiday. Performed with quirky abandon by lead dog Steve Erdman and featuring a klezmer-esque guitar break, this song is a sure fire way to get kids on their feet and dancing. Whether you take a close listen to the tune to learn a thing of two about Hanukkah, or just enjoy the frenetic, fun beat, “Hanukkah on Andomeda” is definitely a song to give a whirl this holiday season.

Album Spotlight – “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

I love Christmas music. As a kid, we always started listening to Christmas records (a Readers Digest compilation album, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby) right after we watched the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving Day and didn’t stop until after dinner on Christmas Day. And every year we anxiously awaited for the night that our favorite Christmas song-based holiday shows would be on – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. 

It’s hard to remember now, but A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) was the first television special based on the Peanuts comic strip. Every year my sister and I would scour the TV Guide for it because we didn’t want to miss Charlie Brown trying to put together a community Christmas play and Linus telling us about the true meaning of Christmas. As a kid, I didn’t know what jazz music was exactly, but I knew that I loved the music in this show. From the iconic “Linus and Lucy” to the lovely “O Tannenbaum” to the unforgettable “Christmas Time is Here,” every note perfectly matched the tone and message of the special.

One of the greatest things about the music that the Vince Guarldi Trio created for A Charlie Brown Christmas is the fact that the music can stand all on its own. While listening to the soundtrack does at points evoke scenes from the show, overall it goes beyond just being a soundtrack for a TV special and instead becomes the soundtrack for the season. As the days leading up to Christmas take on an even more frenetic pace and everyone’s patience becomes thin, take a few minutes to sit back and enjoy the soothing sounds of A Charlie Brown Christmas. (Oh, and speaking of albums, have you seen the LP for this one? It’s on green vinyl!!) 

2019 Children’s Music Roundup

Welcome to the second annual Kids Rhythm and Rock Children’s Music Roundup! Oh what a year 2019 was for children’s music with a cornucopia of sounds, fantastic messages and moments of fun combining for a true wealth of musical riches, Whether you check the CDs out from the library or listen to them on your favorite streaming service, all of the albums below are definitely worth a listen (or two, or three…). 

 

Best Animal Album Covers
Come for the covers, stay for the amazing music!
Swamp Romp Performed by Johnette Downing with Scott Billington   
Winterland Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers

 

 

Be Mindful, Be Kind     

   

 

 

 

The Love Performed by Alphabet Rockers
Kindred Performed by Renee & Friends
Under the Big Umbrella Performed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Ageless: Songs for the Child Archetype Performed by Jon Samson

 

Unique Musical Stylings

    

 

 

 

Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net Performed by Oran Etkin
Shake It and Break It Performed by Randy Kaplan
Earworm Performed by Sean McCollough

 

Based on a Podcast

 

Backstroke Raptor Performed by The Story Pirates

 

 

 Regional Superstars You Should Know

                                                                         

 

 

 

Put Your Arms in the Air Performed by Cowboy Andy (based in Montana) 
Kith & Kin Performed by Duke Otherwise (based in Wisconsin)   

 

Bilingual/Spanish Albums

          

 

 

 

Canta las Letras Performed by 123 Andrés
Love is Te Quiero Performed by Alina Celeste
Buenos Diaz Performed by The Lucky Band
En la Radio Performed by Nathalia

 

We Only Have One Earth
These albums each contain several songs that celebrate the flora and fauna on this rock we call home. 

     

 

 

 

Can You Feel It? Performed by Jessa Campbell & the Saplings
It Takes a Village Performed by Ginalina
Positronic Performed by Marsha and the Positrons

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Dads

      

 

 

 

Which One Am I? Performed by Howie D
Growing Up Performed by Josh Lovelace

 

The Long and the Short of It

      

 

 

 

All I Do is Hop Performed by Grin Brigade (29 tracks)
The Robot Performed by Ants Ants Ants (4 tracks)

 

Thank You, and Goodnight!

Album cover for Now That We're Home

 

Now That We’re Home: Lullabies & Love Songs Performed by KB Whirly

Video Spotlight – “Marley Sitting On A Pumpkin Seed” Performed by Simon Stanley

Listening to “Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed” has had me thinking a lot about the role that pumpkins have played in my life. Growing up, pumpkins were a big deal at our house. We would grow our own pumpkins, carve them for Halloween and the very next day my mom would cook them down and freeze the pumpkin to be used for pies at Thanksgiving and bread at Christmas. While many folks around us would bake their pumpkin seeds to eat as a snack, we would dry ours out to plant the following year.

As an adult, sometimes we grow our own pumpkins and other times, like this year, we go to a local pumpkin farm and pick some out to take home. Now, rather than carve our pumpkins, we sit them in the front yard and project videos of singing jack o’lanterns on them during Halloween and use them as decoration leading up to Thanksgiving. This November though, the squirrels had a different plan and within two weeks post-Halloween had eaten so much from the inside of the pumpkins that they collapsed in on themselves (the pumpkins, not the squirrels). My husband decided to put the fate of the pumpkins in Mother Nature’s hands and dumped the whole pulpy mess in the garden to see if any of the seeds will surprise us next summer by taking root all on their own. 

In Simon Stanley’s recently released bluegrass-infused single, “Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed,” a little tiny girl is sitting on a seed while listening to the music blowing in the breeze. This lyrical video features a lovely image of Marley, created by Auckland designer Rebecca Ter Borg. In the song, Marley is introduced to various instruments while the melody encourages viewers to clap and tap along. Listening to this upbeat ditty, I just close my eyes and imagine that there is a tiny Marley or two enjoying my pumpkin seeds and the music in the leaves as they continue to fall from the trees. “Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed” is the perfect way to bid fall farewell.

 

 

2020 Best Children’s Album GRAMMY Nominees

The 62nd annual GRAMMY nominees were announced yesterday. To be eligible for the 2020 awards, an album had to be released between October 1, 2018 and August 31, 2019. This year’s selection of nominees for best children’s album includes a few familiar faces as well as the introduction of some newbies to the GRAMMY competition. (Special shout out to Kaitlin McGaw for being the only female lead performer in this year’s crop of nominees!) The GRAMMY awards will be announced on Sunday, January 26.

Ageless Songs for the Child Archetype performed by Jon Samson

Flying High! Performed by Caspar Babypants

I Love Rainy Days performed by Daniel Tashian

The Love Performed by Alphabet Rockers

Winterland Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers

Video Premiere – “Hot Sauce” performed by Koo Koo Kanga Roo

If you’re not familiar with the gold sneakers wearing best friends Bryan and Neil, the dynamic duo behind Koo Koo Kanga Roo, then you’ve been missing out. I was first introduced to them a little over three years ago. My first thought was, “These guys are children’s performers?” Quickly followed by, “These guys are children’s performers!” Having traveled the country with everything from Yo Gabba Gabba Live to the Vans Warped Tour, Koo Koo Kanga Roo employs pumping dance beats and crazy, goofy, always entertaining lyrics that will appeal to children of all ages.  Whether they are singing about glitter, the turkey wobble, or bubble wrap, the duo’s listeners can always be sure that they are in for a good time. The fun doesn’t end with the music though. Koo Koo Kanga Roo takes their songs to new levels with innovative videos that bring the lyrics to life.

In this regard, the video for Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s newest song does not disappoint. Hot sauce is something that most people either love or hate. This video however, with sizzling visuals and a thumping hook, manages to bridge that divide and make it a condiment everyone can enjoy. So tie on your sneakers, clear the dance floor and get ready to drink in some hot sauce!

Spread a Little Kindness Today

November 13 is World Kindness Day. Established in 1998, World Kindness Day is celebrated around the globe – from the US to Japan and Nigeria to the United Arab Emirates. Acts of kindness, both big and small, are encouraged as a symbol of the things that we, as a global community, can accomplish if we are good to one another. One of those small acts that is easy to do no matter your age, is to wear a cardigan. This year, in honor of Mister Rogers and the message of kindness that he spread, Pittsburgh TV station WQED is encouraging everyone to grab my favorite kind of sweater, take a picture and tag it #CardiganDay.

Don’t let your celebration of World Kindness Day end with a sweater. Take a listen to “Drop in the Bucket,” the newest song from Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could. Filled with suggestions on easy ways that young people can be kind to one another, take inspiration from the song and add a drop of kindness to your bucket as we work together to make every day in the neighborhood beautiful.

Fids and Kamily Awards 2019

It’s that time of year again. Time for the “Best of…” lists to start appearing. First up in the land of children’s music is the 14th annual Fids & Kamily Music Awards. Voted on by a stellar collection of folks familiar with the fantastic offerings from the children’s music industry, this list of the Top 12 albums of 2019 for kids and families is a list of “must haves” for every collection. Don’t forget to take a look at the Honorable mentions, they are great ones to have as well. Keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for our Kids Rhythm and Rock best of the year list as well. Also on the horizon, the GRAMMY nominations for Best Children’s Album on November 20, followed shortly thereafter by School Library Journal’s “10 Best Children’s Albums.” Are there any albums you wished had made the Fids and Kamily 2019 list?

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