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John Cassel, Kids Dig Jazz


Published February 14, 2006 at 8:57 p.m.

(Cassel Music, CD)

Pianist John Cassel has been a mainstay in the Vermont music scene for more than 30 years. He's also worked with national talent such as Dave Brubeck, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Gary Burton and Bonnie Raitt. Cassel's latest, Kids Dig Jazz, takes a unique approach to swing, with well-known children's songs re-imagined as frisky jazz numbers. The best part? Although the disc is intended for kids, it won't send the adults running from the room.

Cassel assembled a few local musicians for this, the first disc in a two-volume series. Joining him on the session are saxman Rich Davidson, trombonist George Voland, trumpeter David Ellis and guitarists Paul Asbell and Andre Maquera The latter also engineered, mixed, and mastered the project at his Fairfield studio, West Street Digital.

Cassel has recruited some fresh talent in addition to the jazz vets. Marshfield-based Re-Bop Singers, a group of elementary- to high school-age vocalists, lend a hand on several cuts. Other contributors include flutist (and Brubeck sideman) Bobby Militello, William Galison on harmonica, Will Patton on bass and jazz percussionist Steve Wienert.

It isn't often that kids and grownups can relate to the same music, but Kids Dig Jazz should do the trick. The timeworn classics seem to lend themselves to Cassel's clever jazz arrangements, while his originals blend in wonderfully with the familar favorites. Opener "Charlie Brown Theme/Do Re Mi," takes a mellow jazz approach with delicate piano and flute solos. Cassel gets playful on the "Sesame Street" staple, "Rainbow Connection," and the Re-Bop vocalizations nicely augment the big-band sound of "Swinging on a Star." Throughout the recording, Cassel and his collaborators strike an easy balance between tried-and-true melodies and sophisticated jazz rhythms.

Kids Dig Jazz is a fine example of truth in advertising: It's a jazz CD of kids' songs full of youthful exuberance. Can't wait to play Volume II with my son.