Great family films make a lasting impression on viewers young and old, thanks in part to memorable songs that cement themselves in viewers' memories. Three of the songs below are so widely known and loved that they hold a place on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Songs list, which notes a hundred of the most memorable songs in a century of American cinema.
Jazz musicians have long embraced popular songs from Broadway musicals, film and television, and made those songs their own. The very nature of jazz as a style is improvisation, so when jazz musicians take on a popular tune, they usually expand upon the basic melody you remember from the movie and turn it into something more.
The five songs below each feature a take on a well-known song from a family-friendly movie. Please tell us about your favorite film-related tunes in the comments section below.
Family Movie Night At The Jazz Club
from Disney Jazz, Vol. 1: Everybody Wants To Be a Cat
by Various Artists
"Find Yourself," from the 2006 film Cars, is the most modern of the songs featured here. The original song was composed and performed by country singer Brad Paisley. Violinist Regina Carter reinterprets the song beautifully, in a more worldly way, rounding out her soulful strings with a perfectly plucked kora (an African 21-stringed instrument) and accordion. Even though the song's words aren't present for the jazz version, the instruments sing in an altogether different voice, suitable for humming along.
Saxophonist John Coltrane's essential version of "My Favorite Things" was recorded after the tune was popularized by the 1959 Broadway musical The Sound of Music. In 1965, the musical was adapted to film form, widely spreading the story and songs to a broader audience. Coltrane's stunning take on the popular tune is nothing like the sing-songy, cheery number film audiences know. The melody and joy of the original are still present, but the more aggressive sounds of soprano sax, along with McCoy Tyner's driving piano and Elvin Jones' crashing drums, make it edgy. It still sounds fresh today.
"When You Wish Upon a Star," from the 1940 animated film Pinocchio, is one of the eight Disney songs pianist Dave Brubeck selected to record for this date. Inspired by a happy family trip to Disneyland, Brubeck was excited enough to call his producer from a theme-park phone booth to pitch the idea for the album. His quartet had actually been playing many of Disney's featured songs for quite some time, but had never collected them together in one recorded work. The entire album is a lovely tribute to Disney that the entire family can enjoy. You'll have to fill in the lyrics yourself, though.
"Someday My Prince Will Come," from the 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, has been recorded by many, many great jazz artists. (It can also be found on the Brubeck recording above.) One of the best-known and loved versions is this one, performed by the all-star cast of Miles Davis on trumpet, John Coltrane and Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The musicians maintain some of the wistful feeling Snow White sang in the film version of the song, but the group's instrumental version exudes more depth and complexity.
"If I Only Had a Brain," sung by the Scarecrow in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, is performed here by Bay Area vocalist Paula West. Her rich contralto turns the song into more of a soulful rumination on thinking than the original film version. There isn't an ounce of "cute" to be found here. West's grown-up, sophisticated rendition of a kids' classic is unexpected and refreshing.