When I was ten years old, my mother brought home a copy of what would become the most listened-to album of my youth: Allan Sherman's My Son The Folk Singer. Along with his follow-up album My Son The Celebrity, the Sherman genius kept me laughing for hours, though I wasn't always sure why I was laughing. But I knew that the songs were funny (my mother was laughing, too) and that kept me listening. My reward? The records introduced me to a world of people, mostly real people, whose names either rhymed with each other (David Dubinsky, Bo Belinsky) or sounded very interesting on their own (Benjamin Disraeli, Newton N. Minow, Vladimir Horowitz). Sherman's lyrics also referred to places and things that, along with those thought-provoking names, kept my parents busy answering questions: "Where's Shaker Heights? What's a line of plastics? Why did that guy polish all the apples?" Adults, I thought, knew quite a bit that I didn't, and the songs drew me into their world in a way that made me want to find out more.
My primary intent for What Do You Know, Kid? is to get kids to want to find out more by making them aware that there is so much more to find out.The album is offered for enjoyment and as a catalyst--not a substitute-- for real learning. (I am very sympathetic to the notion that we do our kids a disservice when we try to sugar-coat the hard work that goes before true understanding.) I'm attempting to expose kids to difficult concepts and important names by introducing them in a playful framework that will draw out questions, or perhaps encourage a trip to the library. And who knows--maybe hearing and getting used to these words at an early age will make them seem less forbidding years down the road when they matter more (say, during finals week at Princeton or in the development of a Unified Field Theory). I hope that parents or other adults who are listening have some fun along the way, too.
And then there's the music. The mix of instruments varies from track to track, providing broad exposure to the sounds of acoustic jazz--its distinctive harmonies, timbres, and rhythms. The format of most of the songs is similar to that of mainstream jazz recordings of American pop standars--chorus, improvised solo with rhythm section backup, chorus. I'm convinced that all kids have jazz ears waiting to be excited by the music.
Here's what people are saying about Jeff:
Stephen Sondheim : "very impressed...funny and fresh, with a rhythmic sense that makes the whole thing very sharp". (commenting on Jeff's parody of Sondheim’s own "I'm Still Here")
Marty Fridson, Dean Of The High Yield Bond Market : ""Holiday For Heretics" is a masterpiece...lyrics are better than Sherman's." (commenting on Jeff's original parody show, "Holiday For Heretics")
Jay Newman, Professor Of Physics, Union College: "If you travel at less than the speed of light, make sure you have "What Do You Know, Kid?" in your car!"
George Gilder, Legendary Technology Visionary: "Jeff Stambovsky? OK, what if Albert Einstein moved to Massachusetts and married Frank Sinatra? And then they hired Allan Sherman and Milton Friedman to tutor their golden child? Here's what you'd get: Incandescent satire, trenchant insights, acute prurient interest, investment genius, trading savvy, soaring bass, nearness to God, and agility with the pick and roll and triple play telecom. Plus lots of laughs. And aside from having plenty of fiber in your diet and in your coaxial cable, the best thing you can do for yourself is to laugh out loud. That's why you need Jeff."
John J. Donohue, Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law, Yale University:
"The man is a genius!!! No one else could have pulled this off."
Joseph Epstein, Author and Essayist : "a complete and cool knockout....much cleverer than anything Allan Sherman did." ("Holiday For Heretics")
Dave Frishberg, Jazz Legend : "laughed out loud...really funny...with unpredictable rhyming, which is rare. And what's really impressive is the humor, generates fresh laughs, and makes sure the song STAYS FUNNY, rather than depending on the first joke to do the job again and again. God knows it ain't easy." ("Holiday For Heretics")
Gary Giddins, Jazz Critic: "Wittily didactic kids' songs....written in a '50s Broadway style" (about "What Do You Know, Kid?")
Moira McCormick, Disney's Family Fun Magazine: "Unique twist on the whole kids' educational audio thing...like nothing else in the children's music canon...topped with an appealing layer of whimsy." ("What Do You Know, Kid?")
Rockland Journal News: "original jazz arrangements and witty lyrics....Stambovsky cleverly writes and sings about apostrophes and antibiotics." ("What Do You Know, Kid?")
Family.com: "Stambovsky does have talent when it comes to songwriting---especially in the lyrics department."
("What Do You Know, Kid?")
John O'Sullivan, Editor, National Review: "Witty..hilarious parody" (National Review Parody Award)
Blog.Nam.Org (National Association of Manufacturers): “Great song parodies. Not mean-spirited, lighthearted and amusing. Somebody did their homework…and some studio work, too.”
Bryan Preston, Producer, Hot Air (Michelle Malkin site): "Very impressed."
Don Luskin (Conspiracy To Keep You Poor And Stupid): “A musical tribute…to John Maynard Keynes.” (Jeff’s original song John Maynard Keynes, from "What Do You Know, Kid?", featured as “Joke Of The Day” on Luskin’s blog, www.poorandstupid.com)
Anonymous Music Fan: "The Beatles, Stephen Hawking, and Fabio rolled into one!"
Anonymous Blog Comment: "The thinking man's Weird Al Yankovic."
Nick Schulz (editor, TCS Daily): “Monster talent….really funny.”