Even in the 21st century's so-called children's music renaissance, where decorated musicians of all stripes find themselves catering to the under-7 set in order to make a living wage, the sad fact of the matter is that a good deal of modern kid music isn't that good. Most of the melodies are straight out of the same Barney The Purple Dinosaur/traditional kiddie music ghetto they are purporting to rescue kids (and parental ears) from. Furthermore, no matter how hard most adult musicians try, it's difficult for them not to talk down, rather than to, younger listeners.
One exception, is the amazing jazz clarinetist Oran Etkin, founder of the Timbalooloo music school favored by NY celebrity parents. In the short half-hour that makes up Etkin's latest CD, "Wake Up Clarinet," Etkin and his charming vocal foil Charenee Wade play call-and-response in ways the dreary old classical kids chestnut "Peter & The Wolf" could only dream of.
The clarinet talks to Etkin, Wade and the audience, evoking Steve Vai's talking guitar gimmick when he played with David Lee Roth in the 80s. But instead of encouraging teenagers to partake in warm miller lite rebellion, Etkin and Wade use the talking clarinet to swing through basic music theory in a light hearted, conversational way that never ceases to entertain. My test subject / 5 year old daughter can't stop dancing when this disc is on. She even picked up a couple of French phrases during Etkin's version of the Dixieland standard, "Eh La Bas."
"Wake Up Clarinet" is the musical equivalent of a perfectly ripe pear: sweet enough to delight the taste buds of even the pickiest princess, but nutritious enough to happily put in her lunch box.
Parental units, only you can break the cycle of dreary kids music. If you don't want Hannah Montana and her ilk breaking into your stereo in five years, a holiday gifting of "Wake Up Clarinet" is an excellent preventive measure.
For more info on Oran Etkin, visit his website: www.timbalooloo.com