In 2013, Verve Records started a series of popular artists covering Disney songs on albums called "We Love Disney," which inspired an American release in 2015. A genre-specific spin-off, Jazz Loves Disney released its first installment last year and the tradition continues with the latest release, Jazz Loves Disney 2 - A Kind of Magic. Get ready to snap your fingers to some of the jazziest renditions of Disney classics you've ever heard.
From the percussive beginning of Babel Gilberto's take on "Beauty and the Beast," I was hooked. Her smooth voice carries this love song away from a waltz and towards a more bossa nova style. It's the first of many tracks that will redefine jazz for Disney fans who are maybe less knowledgeable on the diverse styles of jazz that exist. Jacob Collier's version of "Under the Sea" also also a fusion of styles and doesn't instantly call jazz to mind. George Benson is a jazz guitarist who provides a guitar version of "You'll Be in My Heart" that also adds diversity to the jazz styles presented.
Those looking for more traditional jazz takes on Disney songs will find them in "Someday My Prince Will Come" by Imany, "Steamboat Willie" by The Amazing Keystone Big Band, "J’ai vu voler un éléphant" ("When I See an Elephant Fly") by Thomas Dutronc, "So This is Love" by Selah Sue, and "Stay Awake" by Laura Mvula. I was particularly impressed with "Stay Awake" because Mvula's arrangements and phrasing almost transform it into a new song and its my favorite version of the song to date. I also fell in love with Selah Sue's "So This is Love" (pun intended) and recommend it as a first dance song for any Disney fans tying the knot anytime soon.
My favorite track on the record is "Be Our Guest" by Jamie Cullum and Eric Cantona. They include the banter between Lumiere and Cogsworth and the song becomes almost a big band/swing number in their hands. Their enthusiasm for the piece is infectious and listeners will find it hard not to sing along or at least smile throughout.
The newest song on this release is "Try Everything" from Zootopia, performed by Angélique Kidjo. It's easy to see why she is known as "Africa's premiere diva" as she makes this song her own and kicks Shakira to the curb. It has a Latin-infused jazz sound that reminds me of "Spin It," the theme from TaleSpin.
The award for the most obscure track on the record goes to Madeleine Peyroux with her version of "The Golden Touch." Not instantly familiar with that song? It's from a 1935 Silly Symphony of the same name about King Midas and the melody was pretty forgettable, even then. However, as a fan of classic Disney animation I'm delighted by its presence here and Peyroux does it in a big band style, having a lot of fun with the tune.
I am in love with Jazz Loves Disney 2 - A Kind of Magic and recommend it to Disney music fans everywhere. You don't have to be a jazz connoisseur to enjoy these renditions of timeless Disney songs and fans of La La Land might find themselves feeling like Seb as they obsess over each track. While this was my introduction to the series, it encouraged me to also check out the first volume of Jazz Loves Disney.