Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Orchestra – Playland at the Beach
If you have a nostalgic sense of humor this showcase of jazzy tunes originally & ingeniously included in early Carl Stalling Warner Brothers Looney Tunes-Merry Melodies cartoons of the 40s & 50s will raise a generous smile. These musicians managed to educate children in the art of comics as well as jazz music without saying a word. I know my first introduction was that silly 1936 cartoon Owl Jolson singing “I love ta’singa, like the birds n’ the bees-a…”
Of course, these are all pristine reproductions by NYC native Jeff Sanford & his Cartoon Jazz Orchestra. They provide a peek at this era, 14 of them glistening in old-fashioned drum beats, thick bass lines & crisp clarinets, all applied to those classic cartoon characters that may have also come from the variety from or the brilliant color of the old MGM cartoons.
The tunes all swing, have a vintage vibe & are extremely well-recorded & it’s the diversified musical education that Jeff received growing up that is obvious in this showcase. Everything is here, from Benny Goodman to waltzes, old Top 40 dance tunes, 60s rock group melodies & classic easy-listening vocalist arrangements.
Many of the musicians involved with this project have played for some big-name entertainers & singers. The music is contemporary Americana in the basest form. The music was wildly inventive, clever & humorous.
The 45-minute excursion on Playland at the Beach (Drops Nov 15–Little Village) is the music that alerted me to the Owl Jolson tune then I was ambushed by The Chipmunk’s David Seville who played an instrumental on the flipside of the “Chipmunk Song” called “Almost Good.” It was a hot little silly piano tune jazzed up with a man’s voice shouting every few bars “Hey, that’s almost good!”
I loved it…and from there it was the magnificent “Liza,” with the Chick Webb Band (1938) & one hell of a drum beat & solo on the live set. Courtesy of my Uncle. I’m a baby boomer so I found these reinvented tunes delightful. The band reproduced many with a deep appreciation for the genre. I was also impressed with how the recording engineers managed to capture the magical atmosphere of a bygone era.
The musicians of the past left a terrific map to follow. Each track plays with musical notes with lots of fun in each performance (“Minute Waltz”). The most recognizable will be the “The Opener” — one of two themes used by Looney Tunes cartoons.
Highlights – “Bird Life In the Bronx,” “Stoats,” “Girl With the Light Blue Hair,” “Minute Waltz,” “Playland at the Beach,” “Snake Woman,” “Good Night Julia” & “The Opener.”
Musicians – Jeff Sanford & Hal Richards (reeds/woodwinds), Eric Wayne (trumpet/cornet/fluegelhorn), Luke Kirley (tuna/euphonium), Eric Swinderman (electric guitar), Kevin Eng (violin), Andy Ostwald (piano), Simon Planting (upright bass) & Mark Rosengarden (drums).
Color image from Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Orchestra’s website photo gallery. CD @ https://littlevillagefoundation.com/jeff-sanfords-cartoon-jazz-orchestra/ & http://www.cartoonjazzorchestra.com/