It's been a real pleasure to recommend music for your child that falls outside of the general juvenile fare. I picked three of my favorites to re-run here. I believe there's plenty of adult music your kids will love, which represents the best of America and isn't sold by PBS or Nickelodeon. We spend a lot of time listening to music and it's been one of the best father-son activities, almost as great as teaching him to drive a car at age 7.
JOE COOL'S BLUES, Wynton Marsalis and Ellis Marsalis, Columbia, 1995, $11.98.
Every kid loves Charlie Brown. And while few have come close to Vince Guaraldi's original music, this album does-and it's great. I received it many years ago as a gift but only recently started listening. My son found it in the back of the stack and popped it on. He loves it. Why was I so tardy? Well, I was biased against the Marsalis family. When I attended the Berklee School of Music years ago, I picked a fight with Wynton's older brother, Bradford. It was out of jealously and petty nonsense (and fueled by beer), but consequently it kept me from enjoying New Orleans' first family of jazz. Even though I would still like to have a couple minutes alone with Bradford, I recommend this disc wholeheartedly. Your child will recognize these tunes and (hopefully) enjoy the masterful playing. Lucy never pulls the football away on this one.
CHRISTMAS PARTY: HOLIDAY PIANO SPIKED WITH SWING, by Dave McKenna, Concord Records, 1997, $9.98.
I'm trying to get Will into playing piano. It's by far the best place to start musical training because everything is laid out in front of the kid's eyes. He can see the relationship between notes, chords, tonalities and octaves.
Because I have vintage trumpets hanging on the wall, my son says he wants to take up trumpet. As much as I'd like him to be a chip off the old block, I'm trying to discourage that idea. The days of Louis Armstrong wannabes with a bright future are long gone. I repeat the old proverb about the skunk and the trumpet player, both found dead in the middle of the road. The difference? The skunk was on his way to a gig.
This album is by the pride and joy of Woonsocket, R.I. Dave McKenna is a hugely under appreciated talent. He's especially appealing in a solo format because he'll switch gears in a heartbeat without having to drag a band along. This is an almost perfect 16 cuts, all of which are immensely pleasing. This is the CD to play while wrapping presents late on Christmas Eve.
I explain to Will how much music is being played with only 10 fingers and a lifetime of creativity. Put away Bing Crosby and expose your kid to a musical genius.
JAZZ ORIGINAL, Pee Wee Russell, Commodore Records, 1997, $14.98.
Let me try to explain this choice. Pee Wee Russell? Well, since moving to Chicago in 1987 I've been a fan of the legendary jazz disc jockey, Dick Buckley. Buckley has been on the air almost continuously for more than 50 years.
Since 1977, he's been heard on Chicago Public Radio WBEZ 91.5 FM from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. I urge you to catch Buckley now because he's an endangered species. Jazz programming on WBEZ will be ending later this year and I don't know if Buckley will hook up with another station.
Russell always has been a favorite of Buckley's. On any show, usually within 15 minutes of tuning in, you will hear him feature Russell. Buckley will find some reason (no matter how forced or trivial) to cue up an ancient, scratchy vinyl 33 rpm record and spin some Russell.
A listener bonus is when Buckley forgets to turn off the mic and we're treated to him humming, chuckling and mumbling along. This happens quite often. On a recent show, we were treated to a nose blowing, too. No problem. Buckley has forgotten more about jazz than the rest of us will ever learn. He's a Chicago treasure. Tune him in while you can.
As for Russell, he happened to be a natural musician, a buddy of Louis Armstrong and a guy with rich Chicago connections. This music was recorded between 1938 and 1944. Simply put, it's brilliant.
Russell was a unique man to say the least. He lead a chaotic life, living on milk, raw eggs and booze. Couldn't swallow solid food but he could play his sodden butt off.
Russell died in 1969 but, thanks to Buckley, I feel like at some point in my past I had a couple of pops with him.
John Howell lives in Chicago with his son Will and is heard weekday mornings 5-9 a.m. on News Talk 560 AM WIND radio. You can e-mail John at BigJohnHowell.com.