A musical scrapbook for pianist Jim Clayton’s child, who had not yet hit the ripe old age of three at the time of recording, Songs My Daughter Knows is a refreshing and moving jazz record.
The Sarnia native recorded in New Orleans with drummer Jason Marsalis, percussionist Bill Summers, bassist Peter Harris, and trumpeter Marlon Jordan. “Here I was, a kid from Sarnia, Ontario. And just being in the same room with these amazing musicians — if I dwelled on it, it could get overwhelming. I mean, we listened to Bill in my college jazz history class. So I’d imagine that I was just playing for (daughter) Lenny, at home in the living room, and I’d relax,” says Clayton.
There is a very relaxed feel pervading the 10 pieces on Songs My Daughter Knows. With tunes that range from Sesame Street classics to the theme song from The West Wing, Clayton’s album takes musical moments from his daughter’s life and arranges them in ways that are universally touching.
There is “Grouch Anthem,” for instance. Some will recall the tune from the 1985 film Follow That Bird, a Sesame Street flick that was the first motion picture yours truly saw in the theater. Considering that Oscar the Grouch opens the movie with the song, it stands to reason that Clayton and Co. would commence their record with it.
Also among the Sesame Street treasures is “I Have a Little Plant.” The basis for the piece is Ernie watering a plant that lacks flowers. Clayton lightly carries the melody through, while Marsalis’ cymbals seem to lay out the other end of the conversation. Harris’ bass escorts the dialogue and even emerges for a solo.
“Autumn Leaves” comes from the fact that Clayton and his family listened endlessly to Oscar Peterson’s The London House Sessions as Lenny made her arrival to the world. “It was the first music she ever heard,” says Clayton. This version finds Marsalis and Summers playing a cakewalk groove, which gives the track a bit of a shuffling groove.
From a mambo version of “Sing” to the original sweetness found on Clayton’s original “Little Leo,” Songs My Daughter Knows is a treat. It illustrates the importance of music in crafting memories and should be one incredible keepsake for young Lenny.
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