The creation of music industry veteran Andy Hurwitz, the supergroup Baby Loves Jazz is just one part of the Baby Loves Music empire. With Baby Loves Disco well-established and Baby Loves Reggae and Hip-Hop yet to come, who knows if Baby Loves Grime and Baby Loves Trip-Hop are next on the list. Released tomorrow, Go Baby Go! (2006) is the first of the Baby Loves... genres to make it to disk and it's a good first, er, baby step for the series.
The Baby Loves Jazz supergroup includes John Medeski from Medeski Mertin & Wood, members from the jazz band Sex Mob, and other musicians with strong jazz backgrounds. The concept on this album is fairly simple -- take classic children's melodies and jazz-ify them. From the bebop version of "Old MacDonald" to the funk/soul of "Paw Paw Patch," the group puts their own take on the melodies and lyrics in the best jazz tradition. The vocals are especially strong on "ABC" and the fun original "Scat Song." Two of my favorite tracks are the slow and funky "Wheels on the Bus" and the frenetic title track, both of which feature kids on the choruses. (Listening to the kids shout "Round and round! / Round and round!" in "Wheels" puts a smile on my face every time.
The 18-track, 51-minute album is not without some less-appealing moments. The interstitials, which introduce different instruments, are fun, but are placed before songs that don't build on the instruments mentioned (e.g., "The Piano" is followed by "Paw Paw Patch," which is played on an... organ). It's not bad, it's just an opportunity missed. And, frankly, I can do without the last 3 tracks, which are intended to be a calming, gateway to sleepy-time, but instead just drone on for way longer than necessary. Take out the last two tracks, and you'd have a fairly zippy 36-minute album.
The songs will probably be most appealing to kids ages 2 through 8. You can listen to the modern sounds of "If You're Happy and You Know It" and tracks from the four simultaneously-released "Baby Loves Jazz" books here. Because it's being released by the well-regarded jazz label Verve Records, expect to find this in a lot of different places.
People who think jazz ended when Miles went electric in 1969 may not appreciate all the tracks here (and, to be honest, I'm mostly in that category myself). But there are enough solid tracks to keep you traditionalists happy and if you (and your baby) like your jazz mixed with more modern elements of funk and soul, Go Baby Go! is an excellent addition to the small canon of jazz for kids. Recommended.