CD REVIEW: Teddy Bears Picnic by Kinderjazz

Kinderjazz is the Christobel Llewellyn founded the band together with her partner David Llewellyn as a means for young children to learn about music and instruments used in a jazz orchestra. Originally, Kinderjazz started as a 10 piece but after a chance meeting at Billy Hyde’s music store in Sydney with Latin Percussionist Aykho Akhrif, the band soon added an eleventh musician on Congas. Aykho has inspired many Latin charts for the band with five of these being named after him. The twelfth member was a second trumpet, Liz Geyer who decided to go solo shortly after joining, making way for Tom McElvogue to replace her. In 1999, the band was augmented to accommodate 21 musicians as a one off. For the later recordings a Baritone Saxophone was used to augment the sound.

After performing mainly in suburban clubs, local schools and Sydney Festivals, Kinderjazz was booked in 2008 by the Sydney Opera House to perform 30 concerts as part of the Baby Proms Programme. These concerts were so well attended the band reached a global following with families coming from America and Europe to see them live in concert. This is a large ensemble who play jazz classics to educate children. Their seventh release is The Teddy Bears Picnic.

There is a lot to be said about Kinderjazz, so some bio is included above to explain where they’re coming from. Educational and more is what the overall vibe is, at least on this release. It’s a very good collection of standards with some added twists and a storyline to also entertain children but appeal to any adults at the same time. I wouldn’t normally be all that thrilled by it but it turned out I liked most of it and it comes recommended.

I’m glad they chose “Arabella” as the opening track, because it’s probably the best overall choice for it. You’re hooked pretty fast. This is funny, serious and past paced. It’s a positive thing, especially at this time of year. It has that festive vibe. The piano solo is what takes it over the top for me. But essentially the vocal tear it up on this as well. The percussion is spicy and It’s taken out with some excellent horns, followed by little Arabella’s voice, introducing herself.

And then it’s the title track, “Teddy Bears Picnic” with a romping version to tell you the truth. I was expecting a less serious take on this but I’m glad I was wrong too. It does well as a jazz number, it’s great this way and would sound good on any jazz lovers list. This is worth the price alone already. It really gets your blood pumping and presents a comprehensive version for kids to learn.

It’s all very fun, as they go into “In The Micro Aykho” with its many cultural flavors driving it all the way with tons of comical vocals. This contains a whole party atmosphere, but then most of the CD does. “Razzmatazz” is about Kinderjazz, and it’s more up-tempo again, with a lot of ups and downs. Some spoken words are involved, as they explore more of later on. I like the glass breaking in this, it helps define their mood. So “play it one more time.”

“Do The Latin Alphabet” is next with an exquisite horn section featured, with a particularly blazing saxophone. This song has everything. All of the instruments are displayed evenly and effectively and you’re sold on Kinderjazz by now, if you like music. Even the youth can follow this, as much as any hardcore jazz audiophile. That’s the success of what they do.

It’s always great to slow down for a ballad, but “Homework Blues” only begins that way, as it does pick up in a few parts. But this is less for true blues lovers than it is a good vehicle to introduce blues to kids. But it also does some jazzy things to take the blues away from it as well. It’s good stuff no matter how you slice it. The big band feel is what does it for me.

And then there’s stuff like “What’s Cooking Double Booking” and “Fantabulous” which contain all of what belongs with the rest. These aren’t my favorite but they by no means take anything away. I do like the energy of the latter track and the instrumentation on the former to, to give them credit anyway.

“You Can’t Stop The Music” is both great and disappointing at the same time because it flies by way too fast, when I could use eight to ten minutes of this. I’m not sure how that happens but it takes one point away in the rating system. I’m left wanting so much more of that one.

This is where “Potato Salad” some is with a story from the picnic and another one called “Signals From Outer Space” with some lighthearted comedy and some points of musical lesson added. This is all a very good release by a huge band that should be more exposed. They have many CDs out, so check out more because this I feel might be just the tip of the iceberg for Kinderjazz.



by T. Marcinn

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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