It only took a few listens to Buffalo, New York’s The Reign Of Kindo to make me realize I was a jazz-rock fan. It’s important to distinguish them from what a lot of folks call fusion, which seems to err a little more heavily on the jazz side of things—and often the smoooooth jazz side of things.
Not these guys. The Reign of Kindo’s potent formula begins with a distinctly jazz-fueled approach to arrangement, rhythm and chord structure, delivered with urgency and song structures typically associated with rock. As such, they are a must-listen for both rock and jazz fans looking for a refreshing groove that isn’t too far off the beaten path.
Fleet, often busy drumming drives the bulk of the Kindo repertoire—frequently mixed right up in your face, where it belongs. Lead singer Joe Secchiaroli commands a voice that is simultaneously assertive and approachable, and the bulk of their recordings are bathed in wall-to-wall piano. While the bulk of the sonic structure here is vocals, bass, drums, and piano, guest instrumentation livens things up via sax, cello, and… hey, was that a singing saw? Cool.
And they give us a lot to choose from. Musically speaking, The Reign of Kindo’s Nimbit Store offers a couple of full-lengths includingThis is What Happens and Live YouTube Sessions, a couple yuletide EPs and a single. There’s also a ton of apparel options available, and it’s nice to see them breaking out of the “band name on a T-shirt” mold with hoodies, kids’ shirts, and even a classic mesh trucker cap—call it a utility/fashion fusion.
While a formidable country songwriter and arranger in her own right, Suzy Bogguss’ voice is the centerpiece of her sonic offering. Anyone who’s heard it once will immediately recognize it on a subsequent listen—heartfelt and pitch-perfect, with just a touch of lonesome smoke. Suzy’s been in the game a while, now, having scored a string of top ten singles in the 90s, including “Outbound Plane,” “Drive South,” “Hey Cinderella,” “Letting Go” and, most notably, “Aces,” The title track of her platinum-selling 1991 album. All told, three of her albums have raked in gold album status, and to date she’s moved a total of three million copies and taken home awards from the CMA, ACM, and the Grammys.
She’s not one to hang up her hat on such accomplishments—nowadays, Suzy plays a lot of shows, and somehow finds the time to run her own label, Loyal Dutchess—which has allowed her complete creative freedom and ownership of her material. Her latest full-length, Lucky, illustrates the benefits of having set out on her own. Lucky finds Suzy reinterpreting classics from none other than Merle Haggard. The admittedly sparse, acoustic instrumentation allows Suzy’s aforementioned voice—and the stories it tells—to drive the entire record. And as anyone who’s listened to Merle Haggard knows, the story is what matters most.
Suzy’s Nimbit store is packed with no fewer than nine full-length records, including a Christmas album and a greatest hits compilation. She’s also taking advantage of the platform’s Calendar feature, and from the looks of things she’s pretty booked up through late April. If she rolls through your town, she is not to be missed.
Like Nimbit, Kid Pan Alley is all about empowering people through music. But unlike Nimbit, Kid Pan Alley is quite an analog affair, and targeted to a suitably younger demographic evocative of the outfit’s name. KPA was founded some 14 years ago by Paul Reisler. His vision is to instill musical creativity, teamwork, and confidence in folks by getting them rolling early—while they’re still impressionable youngsters.
It’s working—and it’s not just kids who are taking notice. To date, the organization has fostered 2,500 original songs that have been performed by over 35,000 children. Some KPA projects have included world-renouned artists including Delbert McClinton, Sissy Spacek, Cracker, Amy Grant, Kix Brooks, Raul Malo, Suzy Bogguss, the Nashville Chamber Orchestra—and the organization sports recognition in the way of Parents’ Choice and NAPPA Gold awards, 6 ASCAP Foundation awards and a Grammy nom.
This recognition and growth is due in no small part to the key element that that separates Kid Pan Alley from a lot of other youth music programs: the children are writing their own songs. Paul finds that kids are better collaborators than most adults—perhaps because they’ve yet to “develop” the sort of ego and self-importance we associate with a lot of adults; creatively, kids’ malleable brains are not yet bound by the rules-based blinders of adulthood. These children are encouraged to produce in an off-the-cuff, fun spirit—and even quieter kids are seen to light up like Christmas trees at the opportunity to contribute to a song.
KPA’s Nimbit store offers collected works from no less than 13 region-specific Kid Pan Alley residencies, as well as four collections, including the Grammy-nominated Kid Pan Alley Nashville, and the perhaps misleadingly-titled Unreleased Favorites.
Kid Pan Alley is Kids’ music, by and for kids—and once you’ve heard it, you may begin to feel that there’s something a little sideways about the notion of children’s music being written by adults.
Interested in getting Kid Pan Alley rolling in your neighborhood? Click here.
Check out this video for a ton of musical kids who are equal parts adorable and confident: