Doug Beavers Rovira isn't the first bandleader to reach out to the "diminutive demographic," but he may be the first to do so without pretense or condescension. In other words, Rovira doesn't play "down" to toddlers and children, he raises them "up" by clothing nearly a dozen nursery rhymes and songs in clever orchestral arrangements that would please even the hippest adult listeners. Blend in charming vocals by Matt Catingub and Linda Harmon and you have Jazz, Baby!
Coincidentally, Jazz Baby (sans comma or exclamation mark) is the name of a two-disc set released not long ago by Casablanca Records, but unlike Rovira's self-contained enterprise, it's a compilation featuring such well-known singer/entertainers as Rosemary Clooney, Billy Preston, Dr. John, Cybill Shepherd, Janis Siegel, Jim Belushi, Freddy Cole, Barbara Morrison, Claudia Acuņa and Kymberly Evans. Also unlike Rovira's big-band album, the "Jazz" content is sporadic, not steady.
Rovira's choice of material is delightful, from "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and The Hokey Pokey" to "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Shortnin' Bread," "Comin' Round the Mountain," "The Ants Go Marching In," "Hush Little Baby" and "You Are My Sunshine." At the end, Harmon ushers in nap-time with a soft and gentle version of the "Brahms Lullaby."
Are toddlers ready for a regular diet of jazz? One can always hope. In any event, there's no harm in exposing them to it. I raised my three on steady doses of Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and others. Did it work? Well, I can't honestly say they're as passionate about jazz as their old man, but they at least understand and appreciate it, along with other kinds of music. For those who have toddlers, or who simply love children's songs, Rovira?s Jazz, Baby! is warmly recommended.