One of the things they don’t mention about parenting (there really ought to be a handbook) is the problem of music, especially for younger children. You could just let the kids listen to whatever you listen to, but you may find yourself not wanting to answer questions about why Nicki Minaj keeps talking about her butt. More to the point, kids and adults have different tastes; young children like simple rhythms, funny rhymes and repetition. A lot of repetition. They can listen to the same thing over and over forever. And they will. There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself listening to insipid drivel that will make you want to stab your eardrums with a pencil, unless you proactively seek out the good stuff.
Lori Henriques writes the good stuff.
Her latest album, How Great Can This Day Be, is a jazz-based collection of wonderfully happy songs. The lyrics are simple and optimistic; simple here is a compliment. As the old Quaker song goes, “’tis a gift to be simple.” Simple is difficult to do; that’s why it’s often a synonym for elegant. Though the melodies are also simple, the arrangements are lush and full. This is not “children’s music,” which conjures up images of shaggy-headed guys with banjos, singing “On Top of Spaghetti.” This is good music that children and adults will enjoy.
The songs here cover a wide variety of subjects; starting with the title track, which is a celebration of the idea that you can choose to have a good day, the collection reflects on the ability to move and dance (“Groove”), the idea of a park landscaped with fruits and vegetables (Inspired by the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle), and relating to our cousins in the animal kingdom (“Monkey Monkey Monkey”). Two other songs serve as tributes to Mister Rogers (“Free Ride Every Day”) and Dr. Jane Goodall (“Dream Jane Dream”). Two of my particular favorites are “Beau Paris,” a wistful daydream about visiting France, sung half in English and half in French, and “I Am Your Friend,” a charming duet with Henriques’ husband, The Middleman‘s Matt Keeslar, here doing his best Joel Grey with some old-time theatrical vocals. “I Say Woo” and “Another Good Year” follow up on the theme of the album, rejoicing in happy noises and good memories.
I field-tested the CD thoroughly; I sat down and listened to it, played it while working on other projects, talked over it, used it as background music, played it in the car during the morning commute, and played it a couple times while writing this review. If you like light jazz with a whiff of classical influence, bouncy good-time music that wears well over time, and positive-but-not-preachy lyrics that are fun to sing along to, you and your kids will enjoy Lori Henriques.
Back when my children were little, there was a great radio network, Radio Aahs, that sought out and played a wide variety of kid-friendly music. All the songs on this album would have fit nicely into their playlist.