New York's Hayes Greenfield is the most vital person in the kids' music jazz subgenre. Through his Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz program, he brings his saxophones and a love of jazz to kids in concert. (And his 1998 CD of the same name which inspired that program is, with the possible exception of the new Medeski Martin & Wood disk, the best kids' jazz album out there, period.)
So clearly Greenfield's latest project, Music For A Green Planet, released yesterday, Earth Day, had the possibility of being another excellent album. Certainly many of the characteristics of his Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz disk appear here -- the never-dumbed down playing of Greenfield and his fellow instrumentalists, the broad range of jazz styles (a New Orleans strut on "This Little World of Ours," the South American jazz of "This Little World of Ours"). And once again, Greenfield brings aboard a bunch of fine vocalists, with Joe Lee Wilson and Melissa Stylianou getting the most lead vocal time. The kids' chorus is fun and never cloying (the hopping "The Sun" is a particular high point.) In sum, the jazz is first-rate.
What keeps this from being an absolutely necessary CD are the lyrics, which are set to familiar kids' tunes (e.g., "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" becomes "We'll Be a PArt of the Solution"). Please don't misunderstand me -- the lyrics are generally witty and it's hard to argue with the need to reduce, reuse, recycle. The difficult part is that it's 53 minutes of the same thing -- it's all a bit too much, frankly. And while there isn't much talking down or straight lecturing, I'm not sure the concept of the carbon footprint is going to make much headway with the target audience. While not dull, the album isn't as fun as it could have been. I think the album would've been served better by a few more instrumental tracks or lyrics that just celebrated nature or being outside rather than stressing the message all the time. Less would have been more in this case.
I think kids ages 5 through 9 will most appreciate the messages here. You can hear samples at the album's CDBaby page or here. I do think Music for a Green Planet will be popular with (and I would recommend it to) any ecologically-minded class or family, plus jazz fans. While I'd recommend Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz over this album for an introduction to Greenfield's work, I do certainly hope it'll be less than 10 years before he makes another album for kids and families.