CD Progress Report: - Jazz For Babies

Jennifer Paton - whose wondeful Euphbass blog has been quiet for a while - and her son (below) have been listening to the 5CD set Jazz For Babies, created by Michael Janisch of Whirlwind Records: 

I was recently sent a set of discs from Michael Janisch's latest project, "Jazz for Babies", to have a listen to. Since I now have a baby, this was particularly appropriate!

Being a father and a musician himself, Michael naturally wanted to introduce his children to good music from the very beginning. Not that that would be in doubt in his household, I'm sure! Anyway, he has called in professional musician friends and put together this series of CDs of jazz standards (and some more recent covers) all played in the style of lullabies, i.e. calm, quiet and soothing, to play to a baby from before birth and beyond. There are five discs, each featuring a specific instrument - piano, saxophone, vibraphone, guitar and trumpet, each with Michael himself on bass and Scotland's own Steve Hamilton on piano. The other musicians are Paul Booth on tenor and soprano saxophones, Jim Hart on vibes, Jay Phelps on trumpet and Phil Robson on guitar.

The CDs are indeed very soothing - they would relax anyone, never mind a baby! My boy is now coming up on ten months, so obviously he hasn't heard them from very early on, but I believe if a child associates certain music with calm and soothing situations, this will continue to work to soothe them - I have heard this from friends who have particular discs, usually of nursery rhymes or the like. A few friends claim heavy metal is very effective - could be the white noise effect…

My son heard a reasonable amount of music when he was in the womb, while I was still playing and attending gigs, but he never reacted much in there - the only two things he noticeably moved around to were Proud Mary, and the entire second half of The Threepenny Opera, at which point I had to call the midwife for reassurance that he hadn't had some kind of fit. In any case, he was fine, and I haven't noticed any particular reaction from him to music he had heard before, so perhaps it doesn't work for all children. Or perhaps he didn't hear the same things often enough before birth. He also doesn't respond unusually if I play euphonium or bass guitar to him. Oh well.

Whatever the situation, I've played him some of the Jazz for Babies CDs in the car to see if they'd soothe him when he got upset (which occasionally happens, thankfully not too often) and they did actually seem to help. Result! When I play them to him in the house, he looks round at the speakers curiously then gets back to whatever he was destroying at the time. We don't play any music to him to get him to sleep, so I can't comment on that aspect of the discs. To be honest, the only really excited reaction I've seen from him to anything musically related was when I played the didgeridoo for him. Much excited squealing ensued.

Whether playing babies music, in particular jazz music with a touch of improvisation as included on these (they generally stick pretty closely to the melody) is beneficial for babies brain development, I wouldn't like to comment. I don't think it increases their intelligence. The so called "Mozart Effect" one so often hears about in parenting circles and literature is not scientifically proven and, I believe, has morphed out of a rather innocuous and not-really-related experiment on US college students. However, these discs do not claim to increase a baby's intelligence, so that's OK! Play them to sooth your little one, and don't worry too much about their brain - it will get where it's going. But I do think it's good to expose children to high quality music, and these are good. The musicianship is excellent, as you would expect from the lineup, and they are very tranquil and lovely to listen to. Adults might enjoy them just as much when they need to chill out. And they make an excellent change from nursery rhymes!

"The baby likes music - it makes a good noise when it hits the floor!"


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