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Book Reviews

Nicky's Jazz Christmas

By Published: December 19, 2006
Nicky's Jazz Christmas
Carol Friedman
Hardcover; 24 pages
ISBN: 1576873412
PowerHouse Books
2006

The question "Where will the next generation of jazz fans come from? is never far beneath the surface at Jazz Forums and lists I frequent. To address this issue, many musicians, such as trumpeter Mike Vax, spend a lot of time presenting concerts and workshops in schools, encouraging an interest in jazz among young folks.

Photographer and creative director Carol Friedman has taken a different tack. She has chosen attractive, top-of-the-line, mainstream jazz selections and reissued them in CDs for young children. To attract the kids' attention, she has capitalized on the charm of her photogenic black kitten (and then cat), Nicky. And, accompanying these CDs, she has written children's books illustrated with captivating photographs of Nicky.

The first CD, entitled Jazz for Kids, accompanied by the book Nicky the Jazz Cat, has previously been reviewed here. The second CD and book, released for this holiday season, are both entitled Nicky's Jazz Christmas. In reviewing them, I enlisted, as "resident experts, three of my grandchildren: BJ (age 9), Lucy (age 7), and BJ's brother Aidan (age 5).

The CD was a big hit. Lucy and her mom first listened to it while decorating their Christmas tree, while BJ and Aidan shared the experience with their parents in the car. Lucy's favorite selections were "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (Peggy Lee), "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer (Lena Horne), and "Frosty the Snowman (Nat King Cole); Aidan was partial to "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) (The King Cole Trio) and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. (BJ and Aidan's dad Bruce cast his vote for "Christmas Night in Harlem, by Louis Armstrong.) The CD wears well; Aidan in particular has wanted to listen to it over and over. It has a good variety of songs, with good pacing and placement.

The book made a lesser impression—the children thought the first book (Nicky the Jazz Cat), with its pictures of Nicky with jazz musicians, held their attention longer—but Lucy thought Nicky's Jazz Christmas was just right in length, and most appropriate for children from 5 to 8 years of age. The photography (and the very cute, cool cat) got thumbs-up all around.

The children and their families would like to see more of Nicky. BJ and Aidan's mom Maria thought it would be fun if Nicky took us to New Orleans, or New York, or Chicago, to introduce us to the musicians, and the jazz history, in those locations.

So, Carol Friedman, keep up the good work; you and Nicky have an important role to play in introducing this music to a whole new generation of potential jazz lovers!

Nicky's Jazz Christmas CD Companion

Track Listing: All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth); Jingle Bell Rock; Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town; Christmas Is; Cool Yule; Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Shake Hands with Santa Claus; White Christmas; Winter Wonderland; Boogie Woogie Santa Claus; Frosty the Snowman; Christmas Night in Harlem; Don't Forget to Feed the Reindeer.

Personnel: The King Cole Trio; Bobby Helms; Peggy Lee; Lou Rawls; Louis Armstrong; The Commanders; Lena Horne; Louis Prima; The Drifters; Mabel Scott; Nat King Cole.



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