Jazz for Babies

Promoters are always going on about creating new audiences for jazz but you don’t often see jazz gigs aimed at kids, in the way that there are hugely successful series  of classical concerts for children. The Baby Einstein CDs and DVDs have been popular with my five-year-old twins since they were introduced to them, at the age of 18 months, by a savvy older toddler.

Children just soak up these gentle orchestrations of Mozart, Beethoven and the other classical greats, which is wonderful for the classical music loving parent hoping to brainwash the offspring before they’re old enough to voice their own preferences. But what is there for the jazz fan seeking to plant the seeds of a lifelong love of their music in the next generation? Well, nothing as obviously geared to young ears. You have to do it yourself – and get used to playing the same two CDs in every car journey for, oh, about nine months.

An old tape of Louis Armstrong’s 1930s recordings became an unexpected favourite in our old banger for many formative months – the jubilant and fast-paced Swing That Music would produce an effect on the backseat passengers akin to the head-thrashing method of time-keeping favoured by heavy metal fans, while little voices would moan “Oh baby … ” along with Louis at the intro of If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight – long before they could actually talk.

More recently, Bix Beiderbecke has provided the soundtrack to car journeys with the inevitable bickering about whether he was as good as Louis or just different. Yup, they’re shaping up to be typical jazz fans – devoted to their heroes and blinkered to anyone else’s..

All this nostalgia for my boys’ early exposure to jazz was prompted by the visit on Saturday afternoon of a 6-week-old baby, Jacques, who was guest of honour at a little tea party which I was hosting. In a rush to get ready for his arrival, and influenced no doubt by the balmy weather which always seems to trigger a bossa phase, I grabbed my Getz-Gilberto CD.

It – along with a Sinatra-Jobim chaser – proved to be the perfect accompaniment to Jacques’  first visit, as it was gentle, lyrical and soothing. It would be difficult to think of a nicer introduction to jazz – at any age.

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