Written by Lucinda Coyne
The name, the look, the sound: It is marketing genius. Australia’s Kinderjazz is probably one of the most ambitious children’s music acts in the world. This is a real band, a Big Band, in fact. There are more than 10 members in this unit playing real and really invigorating swing and Latin music for kids. With their colorful clothes and cartoonish numbers, Kinderjazz are able to woo the preteen set but also their moms, dads, and grandparents as well. Christobel Llewellyn of Kinderjazz reveals the goofy madness behind the group.
Lucinda Coyne: Children’s music in a real Big Band jazz setting is pure genius. Who thought of it?
Christobel Llewellyn: I had a vision. I realised that there was a real lack of live music around for children. Most children’s shows had a fluffy character costume and a poor quality backing tape. There were no musical instruments for the kids to look at or listen to and everything seemed to be fake, i.e., a drum machine or synthesizer. I knew as a professional musician I had the means to address this imbalance. I noticed that all the highest quality children’s films and cartoons included swing music and Big Band jazz tracks recorded with some of the best musicians in the industry. Children loved the beat and variety of rhythms and styles. It seemed the perfect vehicle to introduce them to live music while having fun.
Coyne: What is a Kinderjazz live performance like? Do you interact with the children?
Llewellyn: Yes! The whole show is interactive. Children get to come up on stage and get up close and personal with the instruments and virtuoso musicians. I’ve rarely seen anyone sit down. The Kinderjazz band have two presenters who sing and fool around with the kids. A live performance always includes a lot of dance moves which the children can learn. Musicians don’t just solo on their instruments to show them off; they clown around, i.e., a feather from our female vocalist’s boa floated up just when our trombone player was about to do his solo so he followed it and manipulated his slide to keep this feather up in the air. It was the best solo he’d ever played keeping children in the moment. It was pure magic. By the end of the show the young audience is not just entertained but educated and yelling for more. You never know what’s going to happen next.
Coyne: Who are the creative forces behind the group?
Llewellyn: David Llewellyn has written the majority of the music and lyrics. David, a graduate of London University and the Royal College of Music, gets his inspiration from his own children. Legendary BBC arranger Arthur Greenslade (musical director for Shirley Bassey) did a huge slice of the arranging which really raised the bar for quality in a children’s product. Costumes, management and choreography have been taken care of in house by myself.
Coyne: When did Kinderjazz get together?
Llewellyn: We did our first gig back in 1997 and you just can’t stop the music.
Coyne: How has the band evolved through the years?
Llewellyn: We started off as a 10-piece then quickly added a second trumpet, a Latin percussionist, and most recently a baritone sax. From 1997 to 2008, the band has recorded six albums and played extensively at clubs, festivals, corporate family days, the Zoo, the Sydney Opera House, the Olympics and parties. The Kinderjazz repertoire tends to explore all different styles of the 20th Century from blues to hip hop. In a time when “processed” music rules and children are marketed as adult pop, Kinderjazz (as many parents have stated) is “water in the desert.” For everyone involved it’s unstoppable fun.