Inspired by the musings of writer A.A. Milne from his poems in the musical Now We Are Six, saxophonist/conductor Phil Woods had the impetus to convey Milne’s poetry into 14-original compositions on his latest release The Children’s Suite. The album is a collection of tunes that have the catchy versing of a Dr. Seuss storybook with the starry-eyed voicing of Judy Garland in The Wizard Of Oz. Featuring the animated character of Christopher Robin and his imaginary friend Pooh, The Children’s Suite is scored for a 14-piece ensemble and 2-vocalists, Bob Dorough and Vicki Doney, with narrations by actor Peter Dennis. Produced by Woods, Rick Chamberlain, Peter Dennis, and Eric Doney, The Children’s Suite will have audiences of all ages singing along to these numbers and whistling gleefully like the Seven Dwarfs from the tale of Snow White.
From the bubbly sprees lining "The Good Little Girl" to the slow and relaxed rhythmic grooves of "Come Out With Me," Woods creates a fun outing for audiences with galloping saxophone puffs shrouded in smooth fluid lines. The slinky-funky cuts of "Pinkle Purr" are tasseled in jiggly organ keys and action-packed saxophone jolts, while the lilting grooves and ruminating piano strolls in "Down By The Pond" are laced in lovely string silhouettes. The swanky jazz phrasing that drools along "Buttercup Days" has a likeness to Jane Monheit as the light jogging pace of the piano keys gating "Furry Bear" are tethered to springy vaunts that dunk up and down happily along the melodic folds. A few tracks are cleverly versed narrations performed by Milne’s official narrator, actor Peter Dennis, like in the catchy "Sneezles" and the cheerfully splashing "Waiting At The Window." Woods’ arrangements are bountiful in gently winged phrasings and starry-eyed imagery that make one think of Alice In Wonderland’s curious traipsing into a world filled with endless surprises.
The Children’s Suite is whimsical and child-like, yet sophisticated and immensely well-crafted. Woods delivers a collection of tunes that entertain people of all ages and leaves them humming along to the melodies will a gleeful step. The merger of music and poetry works in harmony in Woods’ hands, and welcomes the listener into this world of starry-eyed landscapes and tenderly wrapped passages.