Featuring Jason Marsalis (drums), Bill Summers (percussion), and Peter Harris (bass). Guest appearance by Marlon Jordan (trumpet on tracks 3 & 7).
Jim's intro (from the liner notes):
"Ever since Eileen Agnes “Lenny” Clayton arrived in our lives, I’ve noticed which songs caught Lenny’s attention, or even made her turn her head in recognition. The music ranged from favourite Sesame Street classics to brass band tracks from the CDs in our car to the theme from a TV show she heard repeatedly (like, a lot) in utero.
"I wanted to record these as a reminder of her child- hood. And I’ve long wanted to record an album in our home-away-from-home, New Orleans. So when we visited there in the spring of 2012, I approached some of my favourite musicians about having them perform on the project, and I wound up with a “dream team” of players.
"A year later, when we returned to the Crescent City in May 2013, we recorded Songs My Daughter Knows. Lenny hopes you enjoy it, and so do I." - Jim Clayton
￼￼￼￼Grouch Anthem (J. Pennig/J. Harrington/S. Pippin)
I’d never heard of the 1985 Sesame Street feature film Follow That Bird until I found the DVD in an HMV bin while looking for videos of Lenny’s beloved Elmo. We now have most of the dialogue memorized. Oscar opens the movie with this song; we set it to the groove of Iko Iko, made famous by the likes of The Dixie Cups and Dr. John.
Tea For Two (V. Youmans/I. Caesar)
Whenever I picked up Baby Lenny to sooth her, I hummed “Tea For Two.” No idea why. I asked my mother if perhaps she’d sung it to me, but no. There’s some fantastic recordings of it, but I always hummed it at Lawrence Welk’s tempo. Here, we play the verse and first chorus as a jazz waltz, then switch to 4/4 swing.
Inside Straight (J. Adderley/N. Adderley)
From our in-car listening, Lenny became well acquainted with the Rebirth Brass Band version of this tune, originally done by Cannonball Adderley. For our version, the last chorus features Bill Summers’ congas. And in a strange coincidence, the closing track on the Rebirth record was written by Kidd Jordan, father of our guest trumpet player Marlon.
The West Wing - Main Title (W.G. Snuffy Walden)
Once Lenny was able to lift it, her head would whip around at the sound of the opening military snare roll that opens episodes of The West Wing. (Hearing it 100+ times in utero will do that to you.) And the first time Lenny’s mom visited my apartment, we watched the 9/11 episode; it featured a solo piano version of the theme, which helped inspire this one.
Flight Of The Foo Birds (N. Hefti)
I frequently shot short video clips of Lenny with my Blackberry, and once in a while I’d put the clips into iMovie and create a montage, adding this song from Count Basie’s record Atomic Basie. Later, for a time, the song upset Len, the same way her old Baby Einstein DVD would. Nostalgia, perhaps. But now she exclaims, “it’s my song! Foo birds!”
￼￼I Have A Little Plant (J. Raposo)
One of two Joe Raposo tunes on this record, the other being the more famous song Sing. This one was originally sung by Ernie in the early 1970’s, while watering his flower-less houseplant, and it became the subject of many a YouTube search. The two notes echoed by Jason Marsalis’ cymbals are the plant saying “thank you,” at least in Ernie’s mind.
Little Leo (J. Clayton)
The only original composition on this recording. Shortly before Lenny was born, I was inspired to try writing a “contrafact”
(a melody written to fit the chords from another song) by friend and guitarist Andrew Scott, who’d written a whole album in this way. I used the chords from “Summertime,” as Lenny was due in August, and named it after her astrological sign.
Sing (J. Raposo)
We learned that in addition to bedtime stories, Lenny loved bedtime music. I can’t count how many times we watched Sesame Street’s Bob (who started out with Mitch Miller’s band) sing a chorus of this tune before turning it over to Luis, who continued in Spanish. They performed it forty years ago, yet they’re both still on the Street today. What great careers.
The Rainbow Connection (P. Williams/K. Ascher)
When we brought Lenny home from the hospital, this is the first song I played for her on piano. This is my all-time favourite pop song, recorded by many, but nobody nails it like Jim Henson, performing it as Kermit the Frog. (Jim was also the voice of Ernie - see track six.) Kermit begins his version with a banjo intro, which Peter Harris recreates here on bass.
Recorded and mixed by Ben Lorio at The Music Shed (New Orleans) May - June 2013
Mastered by Andy Krehm at Silverbirch Productions (Toronto) July 2013
Produced by Jim Clayton
Photography by Tracey Nolan Studios
Design by Kroworks
Many thanks to
Ben Lorio, Bill Summers, Jason Marsalis, Peter Harris, Marlon Jordan, Ruby Rendrag, Andy Krehm, Steve Lucas, David Peters, Martha Johnson, Michael Beninate, Krishan Jayatunge
Special thanks to Tracey Nolan (for Lenny) and to Lenny (for the inspiration).