Jazz Playground

Various Artists

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Jazz Playground Review

by Adam Greenberg

Putumayo Kids has built a strong reputation for providing dance and ethnic musics that may be directed at kids, but are respectable enough and listenable enough to please parents at the same time. With Jazz Playground, they take a stab at going the other direction in essence -- finding music from a mature genre that can still appeal to kids. The result is a mixed bag, unfortunately -- the vocals almost universally cater to the young ones, full of overwrought enunciation and adding affectation to every bit of lyric. This is more straightforward kids music, hamming it up for a reaction regardless of the kind of reaction. The music, however, gives a different picture. There's a tendency in kid-directed jazz toward simpler rhythms and basic rocking motives. Gypsy jazz becomes the vehicle for this a surprising amount of the time, with a touch of swing band occasionally thrown in. The musicians here are all entirely capable, producing a nice backdrop. It's when they diverge that it really gets interesting. Famoro Dioubaté provides a strong marimba behind "Shortnin' Bread." The band behind Barbara Morrison provides Wes Montgomery-style guitar and Bill Evans-style piano. It's a nice album, still in the vein of the other Putumayo Playground releases and their parent-friendly music, but may lack some of the massive pep and pop that other releases have carried for the kids.

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