If you've been a longtime reader, you'll know that I'm a big fan of jazz music. Old school (Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Duke Ellington) or new school (Diana Krall, Madeleine Payroux, Melody Gardot, Gretchen Parlato)...I love them all the same. But, traditionally, jazz has been a bit too sophisticated a genre to share with Nate. He is just too young to appreciate it and it goes right over his head. Instead, I've had to settle for a type of jazz fusion that may make a brief appearance in a song or two on otherwise pop/rock albums.
But that's all changed now that I've been introduced to Coal Train Railroad.
Coal Train Railroad is a collection of original jazz songs for kids created by professional musicians. Produced by bassist Chris Donohue (Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Collective Soul) and featuring the charming, playful voice of Katy Bowser, Coal Train Railroad appeals to grownups, too. Not to mention jazz lovers: Coal Train Railroad features saxophonist extraordinaire and Grammy winner Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band) and widely respected horn player Rod McGaha.Track Listing:
1. All Aboard
2. My Mouth and Me
3. Bellybutton Stays the Same
4. Snuggling Suits Me Just Fine
5. It's Hard to Listen
6. I Need A Nap
7. Just the Juice, Jack
8. What's Mine Is Yours
9. Coal Train
Coal Train Railroad (I'm assuming this clever name is a tongue-in-cheek nod to jazz musician John Coltrane?) defies the stereotype that jazz is for adults only. They deliver a genuine brand of jazz - not a watered-down version for children. You'd never guess the album was for kids unless you listen closely to the lyrics, which cover everything from bellybuttons to naptime to juice. I have to say the result is quite stellar.
The album is filled to the brim with talent from the arrangements to the vocals. Conductor Katy's light-hearted, coquettish voice has a distinct Billie Holiday/Carmen McRae vibe that I just can't hear enough of. The instrumentals, from the piano to the brass to the strings, are spontaneous and keep you on your toes. The saxophone, in particular, was groovy. Coal Train manages to make jazz relevant and fun. No easy task but they pull it off flawlessly.
The songs are all sung from a child's perspective so they are believable and easy to relate to. Nate's favorite song is the vaudeville, vocal jazz number "My Mouth and Me", which lets us practice our scatting and imitate the growling instruments with crazy mouth noises. My personal favorites were the cold weather swing tune, "Snuggling Suits Me Just Fine", the snappy, smooth jazz proclamation "It's Hard To Listen", and the adorable ode to fruit nectar, "Just the Juice, Jack". The snazzy, bossa nova "What's Mine Is Yours" is also great but to be honest, every track stands out.
Bottom line: Grab your ticket and hop on board the Coal Train Railroad. It's such an enjoyable ride through the diverse lands of jazz, you nor your children will want to leave. Katy and Friends have really set the bar high for family music with this progressive release. It's quite catchy and sure to please those who are newcomers to jazz as well as the most discerning jazz fans.
BUY IT: You can purchase Coal Train Railroad online at www.coaltrainrailroad.com or on Amazon.com (ARV $10.00 or $6.99 for digital album).
DELECTABLE DEAL: You can now hear two full-length samples on the Coal Train Railroad website! And if you share your email address, you'll get a free download!
WIN IT: I have another copy of the album up for grabs for one lucky reader!
MAIN COURSE (MANDATORY ENTRY): Have a listen to the clips of Coal Train Railroad and tell me which one you like most. Remember to please leave your email address in your comment if it isn't visible on your profile to prevent disqualification!
SUGAR ON TOP (BONUS ENTRIES): To maximize your chances of winning, you may do any or all of the following. Be sure to complete the above mandatory entry or your bonus entries will not count! Remember to leave one comment per entry.
1.) Follow my blog and/or subscribe via reader or email. If you already follow and/or subscribe, that counts! (1 entry each)
2.) Follow me and Coal Train Railroad on Twitter and tweet about this contest. Just leave me a comment with your tweet link. (1 entry)
3.) Become a fan of Coal Train Railroad on Facebook. (1 entry)
4.) Add my blog button and leave a comment with the link to where I can find it. (1 entry)
Giveaway will end on March 11, 2010 at 11:59pm EST. Open to U.S. only. Winners will be chosen via Random.org and will have 48 hours to respond to congratulatory email or prize will be forfeited and another winner will be chosen.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this album courtesy of Katy of Coal Train Railroad to facilitate my candid review. I was in no other way compensated for this post. The thoughts and feelings expressed in this review are mine and mine alone. Your experience may differ.