It isn't often I get over-the-top excited about a new CD, but when I received a press release regarding Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat, my heart began to beat wildly. Remembering some very fine Disney interpretations by some of our finest i.e., Bill Evans, Louie Armstrong, Brubeck, Coltrane, Miles, my anticipation was not misguided. After all, Disney has delighted countless trillions of viewers with his cartoons, films and Magic Kingdom, but to understate the music that has accompanied the optical delight of everything Disney would be simply ludicrous.
Disney's first venture into creating new music began 1929 to 1939 when he created the Studio's Silly Symphony series and full-length films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, where songs like "Someday My Prince Will Come" and "Whistle While You Work" lingered in almost everyone's head. Many of the songs became so popular, they made there way onto television, being sung by modern vocalists and bandleaders of the day.
Then something happened in the 50s. Jazz musicians modernized and improvised many of Disney's tunes, and a wide variety of instrumental jazz albums began to appear featuring Disney melodies. A decade later, jazz fully embraced Disney's songs as part of its sophisticated expression. Today, nothing could be more appropriate than revisiting Disney's music with fresh, invigorating life. Such is the case with Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.
Grammy-winning producer and former A&R Director for Verve Records, Jason Olaine, (whom among other prestigious titles is currently Artistic Director for Yoshi's San Francisco) produced the impressive CD. The task of producing began two years ago when Olaine was given a monumental list of 600 Disney classic songs to work with, then was asked to assemble the who's who of jazz to deliver the goods for the first volume. The results are astounding!
A glorious array of Disney classics are included in the 13 tracks with plenty to sink your teeth into, with respect to the diversity of styles and arrangements, and the artist status is indisputable: Roy Hargrove Quintet, Esperanda Spalding, Dave Brubeck, Regina Carter, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Bad Plus, Roberta Gambarini, Alfredo Rodriguez, Nikki Yanofsky, Gilad Hekselman and Mark Rapp.
Obviously all the premier musicians and vocalists on this album enjoyed performing their individual songs. Roy Hargrove stated, "Those songs that are in the Disney repertoire are very catchy. 'Everybody Wants to Be a Cat' was in the Jungle Book, which was my favorite as a kid. It has a nice bounce to it. The melody and the way it goes—the kind of New Orleans feel that it has, that second line—it's already jazz! It swings. It's fun, that tune's fun. It kind of plays itself."
Best New Artist from the recent Grammy Awards, Esperanza Spalding, explained, "I've always been haunted by this song ("Chim Chim Cheree") since I first saw Mary Poppins as a child. It has been such a treat to re-visit this music as an adult and explore the magic of the melody. The melody of 'Chim Chim Ceree' is sweet and lifting, yet has a bitter tinge of melancholy...Finding a way to add to this song without burying the magic of it's simplicity was challenging."
Perhaps no other recent CD exudes so much fun and enthusiasm yet at the same time, stands as a testament to the significance and durability of the Disney songbook. One can only hope volume one is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.