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Jazz Playground CD Review by Melissa Cummings

Putumayo World Music
28 W. 25th St., 5th Floor
New York, NY 10010

When I think of global music, I think back to my days at the university, studying indigenous instruments and rhythmic patterns. Listening to Jazz Playground, I get a new and unique twist on multicultural music by seeing how diverse jazz can be when influenced by different countries throughout the world. Although jazz is often described as the only art form that originated in the United States, its roots came from places like Africa and Europe, and Jazz Playground shows us how jazz has gone around the world into many diverse cultures to season global music with its rhythm, instrumentation, and tradition of improvisation. What a fantastic and fun introduction to jazz to families from any culture!

From the familiar texts of Mary Had a Little Lamb and Sing a Song of Sixpence to the Japanese lyrics of Oyatsu no Jikan and a song called Gazooba, this CD encompasses a wide variety of international music. All of the songs fit under the wide umbrella of jazz to get toes tapping, heads bobbing, and smiles erupting on the faces of your entire family or classroom.

This CD goes out of its way to make the music easily accessible for any child, regardless of development or experience. The enclosed booklet is fun, bright, and colorful, and it includes an introductory paragraph in four languages. Each two-page layout of the booklet is dedicated to one of the tracks, with a playful illustration and narrative of the music, sometimes instructional, other times simply amusing. There is a word on almost every page in multiple languages, and it is fun to try to pronounce these words and figure out what languages they are. The Jazz Playground booklet is truly an ideal way to get a child involved in this music, as it reads like a storybook. Additionally, a glossary is on the inside cover of the CD case, with simple yet accurate words and descriptions. It is a very handy reference tool for a child or parent who wants to stay informed about the music they are listening to.

Like the music that each track represents, the many artists who created the music of Jazz Playground are unique and diverse. From many countries around the world and with various styles and talents, these artists come together to compile a truly beautiful and complex CD. The artists are all highlighted, described, and introduced in the enclosed booklet--and since there are pictures of each artist, we are able to see how unique and diverse this group of artists really is.

The Putumayo website is a great resource, full of CDs to buy, music samples to listen to, music videos to watch, and even downloadable teaching guides to accompany the CDs. The teaching guides are simple yet complete enough that homeschooling parents can incorporate this music into their music class, regardless of how much they know about jazz themselves. The guides help children explore the lyrics and the music, getting involved in the music while they listen. The lyrics and translations of each track are also available to download, which is another great resource for teacher/parent and child alike. The Putumayo website really demonstrates some of the fun that is packed into Jazz Playground, from instruments to education to dancing to playing to diversity to unity.

My only complaint about this disc is that it only has thirteen tracks! We put it on repeat so my son and I can enjoy the music twice as long. Truly suitable for all ages, this is an excellent way to visit the music of Cuba, Japan, Brazil, Australia, France, and beyond without ever leaving the living room. Reasonably priced and a truly enjoyable addition to any musical library, this is a wonderful invitation to look into more of the Putumayo music collections.

Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010