Let’s have some jazz hands all around for the renaissance of jazz-infused children’s music. Not to make light of the development, but the surge can traced back to Lucy Kalantari winning a Grammy for her recordings. I’d say roughly three of the past six releases sent for review this summer were either jazz or jazz-adjacent. Now Lori Henriques, no jazz naif, returns with her entry, “What Do You Wish.”
Herself a former Grammy nominee, Lori’s latest collection is as close to Steely Dan for pre-teens as you’re likely to hear. What Do You Wish is as tight, coiled, and polished as any recording that Becker and Fagen ever put on disk. The horn arrangements, guitar solos, and backing vocals scream “soft jazz” and fill the air with ambient grooves.
Lori has remixed her song “Everlovin’ Water” with help from keyboard player Aubrey Scarbrough, and given it a full funked-up arrangement. The tune is a literate “Schoolhouse Rock” explanation of the importance – and placement – of water, inside and outside of our bodies.
If anything, Lori is a little too ambitious. For instance, “Compassion” is a nice concept and the song strives to list people whose contributions make the world a better, more humane environment. But how many kids are going to take the time to Google (as I did) Simone Campbell, Cornell West, Krista Tippett, and Maria Popova, just to name a few? The gratitude theme works best on tracks like “I Like Myself,” where she sings “I like myself, I do, and when I like myself, it’s easy to like you,” and the percussive “Life Is Yes,” about the positivity of embracing experiences.
Let’s all sit back, put on our best headphones, and revel in the New Jazz Age of children’s music. Much like the other artists, Lori Henriques uses the form to celebrate the simple, everyday interactions between people. If anything, What Do You Wish is a collection that answers its own question; what anyone would wish for is what they are hearing being lauded.
Here is the video for “Everlovin’ Water”: