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Trudy Kerr

Jazz for Juniors


by Ian Mann

January 15, 2007


Lets hope a generation of kids enjoy this finely crafted album. A tour of schools and theatres is planned for the "Jazz For Juniors" project in 2007.

Making an album specifically aimed at children has become rather fashionable recently. I seem to recall the rock group St. Etienne being one of the early exponents of the trend. “Jazz For Juniors” sees singer Trudy Kerr adding a jazz flavour to a set of eighteen tunes-“sing along songs for kids” as she describes them.

The idea came about as Kerr tried to find an alternative to nursery rhymes to sing with her own children. She drew on the songs she had grown up with and imbued them with a jazz flavour. Feeling that like-minded parents might wish to do the same she turned her idea into a professional project resulting in the emergence of this CD.

I don’t have any children to try Kerr’s ideas out with, so what is there here for the adult listener to enjoy? Well those of us of a certain age will have grown up with these songs too, so listening to them is a trip down memory lane, a pleasing wallow in nostalgia as we relive our own childhoods. There’s “What’s New Pussycat?” “High Hopes”, “Baby Face”, “Swingin’ On A Star”, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”, “Zip A Dee Do Dar” and many others.

Australian born Kerr is now one of the UK’s most respected jazz vocalists. She sings like an angel throughout and is joined a world-class band. Kerr’s husband, bassist Geoff Gascoyne is musical director for Jamie Cullum’s band. Gascoyne handles all the arrangements on “Jazz For Juniors” and together with Cullum’s drummer Sebastian De Krom forms a rhythm section that swings infectiously and joyously. They are aided and abetted by versatile pianist Tom Cawley. But how will appearing on a kids record affect your street cred with Acoustic Ladyland Tom? (Joke).

There’s not much room for soloing but trumpeter Martin Shaw has a few opportunities to show off his bright tones in the occasional break. Derek Nash appears on saxophone and also engineers the album which was recorded at Nash’s Clowns Pocket Studio. The recording is up to the high technical standards we have come to expect from him.

The album also features backing vocals by children Emily, Laura and Ruby Gascoyne plus their young friends Laura and Kristy James. Normally I find children’s voices on records far too saccharine, cloying and generally irritating. These kids sound pretty good though, they can swing too! Must be something in the genes.

I found this album more enjoyable than I thought I would as much for the standard of the playing as anything else. Also it’s interesting to look at songs you loved as a child from an adult perspective. The sexual dimension to “What’s New Pussycat” for instance or the spitefulness of the lyrics to “These Boots”. I also raised a knowing eyebrow to the musical quote from Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” during the latter.

As a kid I wasn’t familiar with “Straighten Up And Fly Right” but as an eight year old I’d probably have taken it literally. Older and more cynical I now assume a monkey on the back to mean something else entirely. Ah, the loss of innocence.

Lets hope a generation of kids enjoy this finely crafted album. A tour of schools and theatres is planned for the “Jazz For Juniors” project in 2007. As an adult it’s not a record I picture myself playing on a regular basis but you have to admire the love and expertise that have gone into this good-natured and swinging album.

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