Jazz CD Reviews

Disney Jazz Vol. 1 – Disney Records

Disney jazz collection launches contemporary jazz label in grand style.

Published on September 11, 2011

Disney Jazz Vol. 1 – Disney Records

Disney Jazz Volume 1 – Everybody Wants To Be a Cat – Disney Records D000312602, 65:17 ****:

(Featuring Roy Hargrove; Esperanza Spalding; Dave Brubeck; Regina Carter; Joshua Redman; Dianne Reeves; Kurt Rosenwinkel; The Bad Plus; Roberta Gambarini; Alfredo Rodriguez; Nikki Yanofsky; Gilad Hekselman; Mark Rapp and many others)

Disney imagery has been transformative for several generations. These artistic impressions of narrative storytelling became part of the culture. Snow White, Pinnochio, Sleeping Beauty and Jungle Book represent storytelling with great emotional connection. A key element of this genre is the music scores of these films. For many, Fantasia’s grandeur is defined by the classical music. The simplicity of “Whistle While You Work” immortalized the seven dwarves. Disney’s respect for great songwriting has enabled animation to flourish. Jazz luminaries including Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Glen Miller and Dave Brubeck have rearranged popular music from these film classics.

Disney Jazz Volume One reflects the image of this studio. Thirteen tracks, with high production standards reinvent a variety of songs from the world of animation. The selections range from early classics to current pieces. Also, the contributing artists are comprised of jazz veterans and rising stars. Roy Hargrove opens with a smooth bop take on “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat”. The gentle swing brings elegance to the song. Grammy winning artist, Esperanza Spalding adds an ethereal, cafe touch to “Chim Chim Cher-ee” (Mary Poppins). Her distinctive bowed bass and vocalese is evocative, and independent of the British music hall sentiment of the original. The duet arrangement is layered with an accordion and piano. Living icon Dave Brubeck graces the album twice. The piano trio version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” (a jazz standard) has all of the crescendos and waltz time bravado that has defined his brilliant career. His trio backs up   Roberta Gambarini on a sophisticated cover of “Alice In Wonderland”. Highlights include playful scat singing and tempo shifts.

There is nothing perfunctory about the material. On “Bare Necessities” (Jungle Book), Alfredo Rodriguez breaks dramatically from Phil Harris’ “lounge act” version. He explodes in a tirade of improvisational piano riffs and finishes with a rousing standardized final verse. Joshua Redman offers a rolling bluesy sax nuance to “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” (Toy Story). A pair of tunes from Beauty And The Beast (“Gaston”, “Belle”) are rendered in spirited fashion by Bad Plus and Gilad Hekselman respectively. The staple of modern Disney, “Circle Of Life” (Lion King) concludes the project with a 70s fusion jam by Mark Rapp and his quartet.

Disney Jazz Volume One: Everybody Wants To Be A Cat is an auspicious debut for the Disney Pearl label.

TrackList: Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat; Chim Chim Cher-ee; Some Day My Prince Will Come; Find Yourself; He’s A Tramp; Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag); Gaston; Alice In Wonderland; The Bare Necessities; It’s A Small World; Belle; Circle Of Life

—Robbie Gerson




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