Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration
A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration pairs two former cultural wunderkids transformed into cultural elder statesmen by their consistent, enduring excellence: The music of Children Television Workshop's Sesame Street, which bedazzled both educators and broadcasters when it premiered in 1969, brought to life in fresh arrangements by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALCO) under the musical direction of Wynton Marsalis.

A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration is the digital audio companion to the October 2020 public television broadcast premier of the concert film recorded at the JALC Rose Theater, where Marsalis and the Orchestra hosted Big Bird, Ernie and Bert, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and even SuperGrover in the legendary "House of Swing."

New arrangements pare this familiar music to a young person's attention span (only two numbers come close to five minutes and they're more learning exercises than songs) while Marsalis and company keep classic New Orleans jazz cooking at the intersection of Sesame Street and Bourbon Street right from the opening Sesame Street theme, where tuba doubling on the bass line adds that extra Crescent City bounce.

Marsalis and the JALCO keep all eyes (and ears) focused on jazz education. "Sing After Me" teaches jazz scat singing by prompting the crowd to repeat vocal riffing first sung by Abbie and Big Bird over an elegant, almost Ellingtonian orchestral glide, and Ernie even tosses in a "voh-dee-oh-doh" to help swing "Rubber Duckie" back toward ragtime.

"Put Down the Duckie" didn't need much (re)arranging to turn into an old-school alto blowing session between saxophonists Ernie (played by Ted Nash and Hoots the Owl (Sherman Irby), and the spirit of communal musical joy radiates off this piece—and several others—like warm morning sunshine.

But the Count's two songs steal this Celebration. He leads "Ladybugs' Picnic" into a glorious cakewalk, with trumpet, clarinet and trombone all shimmying in the front line, with tuba, bass and drums kicking out the backsteps underneath. He introduces "Pinball Number Count" in his inimitable style: "I shall now count you in—one, two, three, four!" The musicians and vocalists rip through this "Pinball" in frantic bebop, screaming hairpin turns and sharp angles, with Marsalis' trumpet positively shrieking for joy in the torrential flurry of his solo, and Paul Nedzela's baritone saxophone lingering in its gutbucket blues.

Track Listing

Sesame Street Theme; Rubber Duckie; It Feels Good (When You Sing a Song); Sing After Me; One of These Things; Elmo's Song; I Don't Want to Live on the Moon; Put Down the Duckie; Ladybugs' Picnic; People in Your Neighborhood; Pinball Number Count; Believe in Yourself; Sing.


Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: band/orchestra.

Album information

Title: A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Blue Engine Records

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