It started with a lullaby album – a natural extension of becoming a parent when you’re already an accomplished musician, and common in this business – but no less heartfelt by each artist.
Lori Henriques comes to the tradition of Kindie music the same way most people do – she became a mom. She was already a musician, teaching piano, playing gigs, balancing that with being a new mom in a small house with a large piano. And in the quiet hour just after her son’s bedtime, she had some energy left over to practice classical piano, although very, very softly so as to not awaken the sleeping son. This gave rise to a unique album of classical pieces in lullaby form. Bach, Scarlatti, Satie, even Stravinsky called Lullaby Piano.
Her abilities don’t start and end with playing and teaching classical piano, however, because Lori has a love of jazz, Sesame Street, Joe Raposo, Tom Lehrer, Dave Frishberg and Randy Newman, besides Erik Satie, Maurice Ravel and Scott Joplin. (I swear she could be my musical twin). And she’s a singer/songwriter with something of her own to say.
So with all those influences, she set about putting together her newest album, Outside My Door. Her influences are apparent from beginning to end, and, happily, she has superb taste. Blessed with a light, clear voice and an easy manner, she manages to convey a wry grown-up humor in a very kid-friendly way – sort of a Dave-Frishberg-meets-Mr.-Rogers clarity that neither talks down to nor above the heads of her listeners.
“Something You Learn”
I attended her recent CD release concert – itself an oddity in that it was held at Jimmy Mak’s as an opening act for the ever-gracious Mel Brown’s set on a Tuesday night. I was quite pleased to hear that it was fully booked – if you didn’t make a reservation soon enough, you had to take your chances. I lucked out with a seat at the bar. (It’s an occupational perk when you get to listen to kids music while sipping a Long Island Iced Tea – doesn’t happen that often because the venues usually aren’t world-class jazz clubs).
The crowd was appreciative and refreshingly attentive. Usually kids at these events get wiggly and restive, so this was in just about every way a standout event. I have to say, though, that the audience demographic skewed to an older crowd than the usual Kindie event, so maybe there’s a correlation in there somewhere. Still, it was a great venue for material that is intimate and thoughtful.
Be that as it may, sprinkled in the set were covers like the Joe Raposo tune “Being Green”, a few Shel Silverstein tunes and others as well as songs from the new album. Her own songs are insightful and sensitive and highlight the things that kids think about, learn and wonder about, with clever lyrics and rhyme schemes, evocative of daydreaming and pensiveness. “Green Leaf on the Ground”, “Outside My Door”, “Sometimes Things” are especially thoughtful, full of wonder at the imponderables.
“It’s Hard to Wait for Birthdays”, a bluesy march meditating on how a long a year is to a kid; “Mean People”, the inevitable song about dealing with others; “My T.O”, a stride style paen to our binkies/security blankets in life; “Enough is Enough”, an ode to having too much stuff: all written in a style that connects us all right back to when we were kids, yet they still speak to kids.
“Happy To Be Me”
Outside My Door is a welcome addition to the Kindie cannon. A rare entry in the Jazz genre for kids, it is destined to be a classic. It’s a great listen for young or old.