Phil Woods: The Children's Suite (2009)
Well of course. NEA Jazz Master Phil Woods' The Children's Suite, inspired by the verses of A.A. Milne. Woods has been widely and wildly prolific throughout his career since his early small group days as a teenager, blowing ebulliently with Jimmy Raney and George Wallington, so it should be no surprise that he's created musical settings for these beloved poems from Now We Are Six, featuring Christopher Robin and his imaginary friend Pooh. Along with an industrial-strength orchestra, he's joined by two vocalists, jazz great Bob Doroughand Vicki Doney, as well as actor Peter Dennis, the latter being the only one authorized by the Milne estate to recite his poetry.
On "Come Out With Me," Doney warbles of "sun on the water," and of being admonished to "run along, run along" in light, cheery manner with just a dash of subtle blues melody. It's a prelude to a pensive, compelling Woods solo. The full orchestra flows in with an especially shimmering string section before Doney caps it off. Slightly melancholic, it is at once as pretty as it is unadorned.
Dennis' crisply clipped rendition of "Sneezles" is punctuated just so by Eric Doney's piquant piano. Dorough playfully meows his way through "Pinkie Purr," adding dashes of his keyboard with Tom Hamilton injecting flavorful heat on tenor sax. Prior familiarity with this and the other thirteen poems is not necessary. All that is spoken and sung prove to be syntonic with the jazz improvisations to sparkling and often touching effect.
Woods first created this suite over forty years ago. The long journey for performance permission from the Milne estate was worth Woods' determination. Charming and swinging, The Children's Suite bids fair to become a classic to be relished by towheads and grey-heads alike.
Track Listing: The Good Little Girl; Come Out With Me; Sneezles; Pinkie Purr; Down by the Pond; Waiting at the Window; Buttercup Days; The Friend & Us Two; Furry Bear; Knight-in-Armor; Wind on the Hill & The Engineer; Solitude; The Morning Walk; In the Dark & The End.
Personnel: Phil Woods: conductor, alto saxophone; Vicki Doney: vocals; Bob Dorough: vocals, keyboards; Peter Dennis: narrator; Nelson Hill: alto sax, flute; Tom Hamilton: tenor sax, clarinet; Roger Rosenberg: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Ken Brader III: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bobby Routch: french horn, flugelhorn; Rick Chamberlain: trombone; Eric Doney: piano; Mark Williams: guitar; Steve Gilmore: bass; Bill Goodwin: drums; Paul Peabody: violin; Joanna Ferrer: violin; Juliet Heffner: viola; Mary Wooten: Cello.