At the heart of Courage: The Atlantic Recordings (2006) are the four out-of-print LPs that multi-instrumentalist Rufus Harley (bagpipes/flute/sax) cut for the label during the mid- to late 1960s. Also featured are a previously unissued cover of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" as well as "Pipin' the Blues," a Harley/Stitt duet from Sonny Stitt's Deuces Wild (1967) platter. Although criminally dismissed by many as a novelty, Harley successfully integrated the seemingly limited B flat and F drone of the bagpipes into the realm of (concurrently) modern jazz. Harley's early life was a struggle with poverty, during which his alcoholic mother would often pawn his treasured C-melody sax for liquor money. Proving his sincerity to the music, Harley without fail would retrieve his instrument via odd jobs. However, his focus changed on November 25, 1963 as Harley – along with the rest of the free world – tuned in to the memorial of President John F. Kennedy. When Harley heard the pipers from the Black Watch of the Royal Highlanders Regiment during the funeral procession, the sound struck him as producing the same tonality that he had been unsuccessfully trying to coax out of his sax. It was then a matter of hooking up with Joel Dorn, a fellow Philly resident and local jazz disc jockey.
Classical music for children has been an underserved genre, even though nothing could be more beneficial to the cause of bringing the music to future generations. Any such release is worthy of note, but one like this, charming and original, is cause for celebration. Pianist Jenny Lin organizes for children some favorite compositions and a few delightful rarities along a timeline "from breakfast to bedtime." There are 26 short pieces, enough to give a feel for the variety and importance of this tradition in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Along the way you get Chopsticks, which you may not have known was an actual composition with an actual composer (female, at that), former chestnuts like Grieg's Grandmother's Minuet, the utterly charming I Danced with a Mosquito by Anatoly Liadov, ragtime and jazz works, and, to end, starlight familiar (Mozart) and more rare (Selim Palmgren), plus the famed cradle songs of Brahms and Chopin. Lin and the engineers from the Steinway label create a magical atmosphere, amplified by excellent children's illustrations in the booklet by Mikela Prevost. An ideal holiday, or anytime, gift item.