Itty-Bitty Review: Wake Up, Clarinet! - Oran Etkin

WakeUpClarinet.jpgGive New York's Oran Etkin credit for this -- his early childhood music education program, Timbalooloo, sounds little like other music program for youngsters. A combination of jazz, world music, with interaction thrown into the mix, it's not necessarily better than other such programs -- I'll leave that for the pedagogic experts -- but it draws deep from wells that are lightly touched.

The first album from the Timbalooloo program is Wake Up, Clarinet!, and after listening to the CD (and watching the 10 minutes of bonus video), I have a decent idea of the program's strength. Its core is classic jazz, played artfully by Etkin himself. As you'd expect from a jazz album, there's a lot of playful give-and-take between Etkin and the other performers, particularly vocalist Charenee Wade. There's also a lot of interactivity expected of the listeners, asking questions, giving the instruments characters through how the musicians play their instruments. (It's a touch of "Peter and the Wolf," I suppose.) If there's a downside, it's that the album's pretty short -- just 22 minutes long, including one song ("High Low") given two interpretations. After the first few times, I gladly would trade some of that and the introductions for ten minutes more of the band jamming on 3 or 4 different tracks.

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 6. You can buy the album here, listen to the album here and watch the bonus video here. If Wake Up, Clarinet!'s brevity helps keep it from reaching the heights of all-time classic jazz-for-kids disks, it's still pretty good. I think Etkin's got the chops to be doing this for some time, and if he does, I fully expect his albums to reach that essential jazz for kids level -- maybe even essential, period. Recommended.