The Songs

the songsGrouch 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 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 that are echoed by Jason’s  Marsalis’ cymbals are the plant saying “thank you,” at least in Ernie’s mind.

Autumn Leaves (J. Kosma)
While Lenny made her excruciatingly-slow-yet-too-exciting arrival, our hospital room soundscape included just one artist: Oscar Peterson. We’d brought The London House Sessions, a five-cd box set which included this song. We recorded our version with a cakewalk groove, inspired by another in-car favourite: Bright Mississipi, by NOLA’s Allen Toussaint.

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, and while there’s many recordings of it, 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.