All the Sounds Performed by Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats

My introduction to Lucy Kalantari’s special brand of family jazz music was her fall 2017 holiday EP It’s the Holidays! and I’m so glad that she’s back with this full length album.  This jazz age inspired collection of ten original songs is a real delight. Each song has its own unique identity filled with complex melodies and engaging lyrics, yet they all fit together to make a beautiful whole.

Once again Kalantari is backed by the highly talented Jazz Cats who really get to shine on numbers like “Ain’t No Dog Like Mister,” a tribute to Billie Holiday’s dog Mister which allows for some great clarinet solos as well as the tango accented “Howl to the Moon” which opens with a gorgeous cello solo that leads to vocals backed by a swaying bass beat as it tells the story of a werewolf who longs for the evening when he can dance with his friends.

Songwriting really takes the spotlight when Kalantari skillfully weaves other musical genres into her tunes. The quick paced “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” features an original rap by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo wrapped in a jazz number that emphasizes the importance of understanding your fears and asking listeners “Can you turn that bad into something good?” Another fun blend of musical genres occurs in “Bunny Hop” where the main character in the song gets to know Mr. Opera Man (real life opera singer Adelmo Guidarelli), the next door neighbor, who operatically proclaims, “I love bunnies!” Listeners will quickly  find themselves hopping and thumping along to this tune.

While all of these songs are great for family listening, there are also several that would be nice additions to a storytime, program, or classroom lesson. “I Know a Little Fellow” could work to introduce children to musical terms as Kalantari’s talented 5 1/2-year-old son demonstrates on the cello the terms she sings about such as pluck, bow, pizzicato, pianissimo, and fortissimo. “La Cosecha” is a fun bilingual song that would fit nicely into a storytime about gardening or community that introduces listeners to a wide variety of vegetables in both English and Spanish. Finally, “The Peace Song” is a lovely call and response song with a special message.

All the Sounds is a joy from beginning to end. Families will find themselves listening to it again and again.

 

It’s the Holidays! Performed by Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the time of year when the stores put all of the Thanksgiving items on clearance, the pre-Black Friday sales begin, and local radio stations start playing Christmas music. And all of that before the family has even arrived to enjoy the abundance of deliciousness known as Thanksgiving dinner. So, since all signs point to it being “that time of year,” over the next month I’ll be highlighting several new family albums that celebrate the holidays.

First up is the delightful It’s the Holidays! from Brooklyn-based Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats. This collection of five jazz age inspired originals celebrates the holidays between Halloween and New Year’s. The album kicks things off with the clever “My Mommy is a Mummy” (keep this one in mind for Halloween 2018) and is followed by “Grateful,” a rare song about Thanksgiving. This is a lovely tune about family and food, but also about the importance of putting aside our differences and acknowledging those things in life for which we are grateful. Take a listen.

Just as the seasons transition from fall to winter, so do the songs on this album. “It’s Snowing” gets listeners thinking about how fun it is to get all bundled up to go outside and of all the exciting things children can do in the snow when they get there. This fast-paced song would work great in winter-themed storytimes as kids dance to the various activities described in the song like stomp, jump, run, slide, and climb. “It’s Snowing” also acts as a nice bridge to the final two songs on the album.

The title track, “It’s the Holidays!” is a bouncy celebration of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and a lovely New Year. The refrain, “It’s the holidays in our community/we celebrate all in unity,” encourages listeners to take the time to honor our differences. Finally, the album is capped off with “That’s a Wrap!” a short (1:37 min.) tune that tells listeners “Let’s wrap up this year and say goodbye” and would be a great addition to any New Year’s Eve programs.

While shorter than the average album, Kalantari, backed by a group of amazing musicians, has created an album that families will listen to again and again. It’s the Holidays! is the perfect start to “the most wonderful time of the year.”