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Randy Sandke's Jazz for Juniors

Randy Sandke

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Album Review

All parents want to present something precious to their children that will last a lifetime. For trumpeter Randy Sandke and his mates from the Arbors record label, this is their full-length, musically animated present to their kids about how important jazz is to them, and should be to the younger set of the world. With texts read and songs sung by Allan Harris and Carolyn Leonhart, tracks alternate between storytelling preludes and vocal music about various members of the animal kingdom traveling in search of forming a band, piece by piece. Each performer has a personality based on expertise with their instrument, starting with Sandke the trumpeting tiger, bassist Jay Leonhart as an elephant (maybe he should have been a contrabass bear!) trombonist Wycliffe Gordon as a hip hippo, guitarist Howard Alden the long-necked giraffe, drumming dromedary John Riley, penguin pianist Ted Rosenthal, two swans in saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and flutist Chuck Wilson, cockatoo clarinetist Ken Peplowski, blue bison Harris, and pretty robin Carolyn Leonhart. The first 20 tracks wend their way through this collection of stories in regards to the discovery of each animal/player as their journey continues. Cute stories about each animal are formed, their talents revealed, and as the band builds from nothing to a large ensemble, you hear the progression of their music as well. From the easy swing of "Tiger Tiger" to Gordon's smeared trombone shuffle feature, "The Hip Hippo," the "Giant Steps"-flavored "Jenny the Giraffe," and the short but fun "The Drumming Dromedary," a history lesson about jazz is being formulated. Harris even provides simple definitions about the music in his spoken word dissertation "Elephant Text." The vocal features for bluesy bison Harris and beautiful robin Carolyn Leonhart lead to the second half of the recording, extensions on "This Little Light of Mine" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," using two-part vocal harmonies, or a Dixieland style. The prelude story of how the band formed is more interesting than the group coming together, and musically has its moments. With such an extremely talented band, one could not go wrong. Perhaps the "Jazz Variations" on "This Little Light" proves the best single, stretched out track. Everyone plays delightfully to the point of appealing to children, and to the kid in all of us. The CD contains a video slide show with illustrations and the music for PC usage, but to its detriment, is not Apple/Mac friendly. Those renderings are printed out in the rather large accompanying booklet, including all the lyrics. Whether Sandke's approach can influence a generation, as Soupy Sales, Schoolhouse Rock, or Bill Cosby brought jazz to a younger group, can only be judged further on down the road. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 1949 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '40s, '90s

Since his emergence in the mid-'80s, Randy Sandke has been one of the top swing-oriented trumpeters in jazz. His older brother Jordan (himself a fine trumpeter) introduced Randy to the many styles of jazz. In 1968 he formed a rock band with Michael Brecker that featured a horn section and they played at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival. However, Sandke had to turn down the opportunity to join Janis Joplin's band due to a hernia in his throat. Although an operation corrected the problem, Sandke's loss...
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Randy Sandke's Jazz for Juniors, Randy Sandke
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