VARIOUS ARTISTS: ‘Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants To Be A Cat ’ (Disney/EMI)

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There are some people who will probably scoff at a jazz project based on Disney tunes. But for the naysayers, doubters and other cynically-minded folk who aren’t easily able to contemplate the very notion of cutting edge acts like Roy Hargrove and the Bad Plus – the noisiest, most iconoclastic group in contemporary jazz – cosying up to old Walt and putting a new spin on Disney movie songs, this is actually a seriously good jazz album and shouldn’t be ignored. Jazz and Walt Disney go back a long way, of course – their history is intertwined in some ways. Big band leaders Artie Shaw and Glen Miller covered Disney songs while Miles Davis transformed ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ (from ‘Snow White And The Seven Dwarves’) into a jazz standard. And then who can forget Dave Brubeck? He cut the classic album ‘Dave Digs Disney’ in the 1950s and helped bring many Disney songs into the jazz repertoire.

Brubeck, in fact – who’s now 90 and still going strong – appears on this collection, supplying accompaniment for singer Roberta Gambarini on a lovely treatment of ‘Alice In Wonderland.’ Other standouts on this terrific assemblage of newly minted recordings of Disney movie songs – whose sources range from the vintage flick ‘Snow White’ through to ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Toy Story’ – include trumpeter Roy Hargrove playing a groovy, finger-clicking hard bop rendering of ‘Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat’ from ‘The Aristocats,’ recent Grammy winner singer/bassist Esperanza Spalding doing a dreamy, Parisian-sounding ‘Chim Chim Cher-Ee’ – complete with atmospheric accordion – and Dianne Reeves delivering a sassy version of ‘He’s A Tramp.’ Teenage jazz singing sensation, Nikki Yanofsky, also turns in a noteworthy performance on a retooling of ‘It’s A Small World’ and there are ear-catching turns from The Bad Plus (a mind-bending deconstruction of ‘Gaston’ from ‘Beauty & The Beast’), Joshua Redman, violinist Regina Carter, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Alfredo Rodriguez, Gilad Hekselman and trumpeter Mark Rapp. All these performances add up to create a lovely little foot-tapping, smile-inducing, feel-good collection – let’s hope Volume 2’s as good.

(CW) 4/5