CD Review: “Putumayo Kids Presents: Jazz Playground”

You know that movie If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium? Well, in my mailbox, if it’s Tuesday, it must be Putumayo.

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While the rest of the recording industry folds in on itself like a coke-dusted origami, Putumayo is apparently making out like gangbusters, because they’ve released approximately 400,000 CDs of world music for all occasions; I keep waiting for the day I open a Putumayo envelope to find Music for When You Want Dessert Before Dinner or Swinging Songs for Young Lovers.

Until then, here’s Putumayo Kids Presents: Jazz Playground, and although I enjoy teasing Putumayo — and saying the company’s name out loud, then giggling — I can’t pretend this 13-song collection isn’t yet another winner from the label. You might think world music compilations for kids would be dry, but Putumayo doesn’t take the Lomax approach; Jazz Playground, like the others in the series, takes a fun, lighthearted approach, and if you’re interested in exposing your kids to the music of other cultures, I can’t think of a more painless way of doing it. These songs draw from across an admirably broad spectrum (Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and South Africa are just a few of the nations represented), but it feels more like a really cool mixtape than an education.

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(Case in point: Canadian artist Chris McKhool’s contribution is a jazzy rendition of the “Spider-Man” theme.

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If you’re anything like me, you tend to raise a skeptical eyebrow at anything that bills itself as a collection of “cool tunes for global kids,” but I’ve given up; resisting Putumayo’s endlessly listenable, artfully compiled CDs is futile. In fact, I think Jazz Playground might be my favorite yet. Bring on World Bathtime Party and Jazz Fingerpainting Anthems, guys — I’m beginning to think you can do no wrong.

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