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Music Review: Oran Etkin – Wake Up Clarinet

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Now here’s something that doesn’t come across my desk very often — a Jazz CD for the younger set. By younger, I mean MUCH younger — toddlers, preschoolers, and the like. Oran Etkin is one of a growing number of recording artists who are dedicating themselves to producing music for children.

Etkin is a jazz clarinetist whose previous release keleni has received some pretty impressive praise. His music school, Timbalooloo has also been praised by  some famous names: Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Edie Falco, Julie Burns, Ken Burns, Daphna Kastner Keitel, and Harvey Keitel , to name a few (their testimonials are included with the CD and on Etkin’s website).

The purpose of both Wake Up Clarinet and Timbalooloo is to involve children with music, not just entertain them.  The Timbalooloo method combines music from all over the world with games, stories, and songs, and Wake Up Clarinet incorporates its principles.  The aim is to support “healthy cognitive, physical and emotional development as well as cultural and historical awareness.”

Wake Up Clarinet introduces young children to a variety of musical instruments and concepts. In a short conversation, Etkin and singer Charenee Wade discuss walking through the snow and then get down to the music, working on “High Low” a song  that introduces the clarinet, voice, and piano and how the musical terms “high” and “low” relate.

“Wake Up Clarinet” involves the kids with the waking up of Clara Net, Etkin’s talking instrument, and its slow exit from the land of Nod. This leads to Clara Net’s confession, “All I Really Want to Do Is Dance.” Charenee Wade contributes soulful vocals to a new version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” called “Little Lamb Jam.” Other contributors to the album are Jason Marsalis (drums), Fabian Almazan (piano), Garth Stevenson (bass), and Curtis Fowlkes (trombone).

Etkin takes a little liberty with the history of the settlement of Louisiana in his “Intro to Eh La Bas: The Story of King Louis XIV,” and it becomes a story with which most Cajuns would take issue. It’s the lead-in to the song “Eh La Bas.” The album closes with an “Intro to Jammin’ on High Low,” and the song “Jammin’ on High Low.”

Wake Up Clarinet is aimed at very young children, and serves as an introduction to the language that is music. Jazz-fan parents may welcome this introduction to the genre they already love; and their children, who have heard their parents’ music, are predisposed to the sounds and rhythms contained within.

Because of the repetition and conversational aspects of Wake Up Clarinet, I wouldn’t recommend it for older children, whom I fear would quickly find it boring. However, repetition is the key when teaching toddlers and young children and they should quickly warm up to Oran Etkin and the Timbalooloo approach. Wake Up Clarinet will hit the street September 14, and is now available for pre-order.

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