Jenny Oaks Baker puts 'sophisticated' spin on Disney tunes
"WISH UPON A STAR: A Tribute to the Music of Walt Disney" by Jenny Oaks Baker, produced and arranged by Kurt Bestor, Shadow Mountain Records, $17.98
Covering Disney songs isn't a new concept.
A search for the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" yields 200 versions in iTunes alone from artists as diverse as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and London Pops Orchestra to Louis Armstrong and Gene Simmons.
Jenny Oaks Baker can now be added to that list.
But thanks to her undeniable talent as a violinist and arrangements by Emmy-winning composer Kurt Bestor, Baker's album stands out with a refined spin on the beloved tunes.
"Wish Upon a Star: A Tribute to the Music of Walt Disney" seemed like a natural route for Baker's 10th album. With greatest movie tunes, hymn and multiple classical albums in her repertoire, Baker received inspiration from her family's love of Disney.
"We've fallen in love with all of the hopes, dreams and just the magic of it all, and I think the music is a big part of that," Baker said.
Yet when she first approached Bestor about arranging and producing the album, he said his initial thoughts focused on the "cheesy stereotype" that often accompanies Disney music.
"Once that was over, I started to think about all of the incredible songs that make up the Disney catalog," Bestor said. "It is an epic and incredible part of the musical landscape, and I started to think it would be fun."
The two compiled a list of approximately 40 potential songs, and then Baker put her faith in Bestor to select 11 for the album.
"The CD was something very personal to her," Bestor said. "We both put out our hearts and talent, so there is a mutual trust."
The final list included some older classics such as "Once Upon a Dream" and "Baby Mine," in addition to newer songs such as "God Help the Outcasts" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." Then Bestor created original arrangements of the selections. "I wanted to take people on a road they already know in a new way," he said.
What he created was a fresh balance to appeal both adults and children.
"I think it's so unique because Kurt has treated it in a sophisticated way," Baker said. "It's not a childlike treatment of Disney, but children will love it."
Each of Bestor's arrangements retains the recognizable melodies that many have come to love while simultaneously showcasing Baker's artistry as a musician.
The song's title track, "When You Wish Upon a Star," sets a precedent for the entire album of beautiful accompaniment, perfectly laced into Baker's violin solos to create a flawless package.
"Colors of the Wind" brings a traditional American Indian style with rain sticks and strong drum beats encompassing the violin to create the sound of nature.
"A Whole New World" is transformed into a tango, while "Mary Poppins Fantasia" combines four songs into one medley of both fast- and slow-paced pieces. Both unconventional twists add diversity to the album.
Baker plans to add Bestor's inventive arrangements to her performances throughout the country, including her presentations at Deseret Book's "Time Out for Women." Baker believes her latest album will fit well in the program, which is designed to spiritually uplift women in a challenging world.
"I really think I will be able to tie in a little bit of spirituality with Disney because I think there is some faith in there — faith that things will work out and faith in a higher power," Baker said.
Regardless of whether listeners are seeking a spiritual boost, Baker said her goal is to provide "hope and a little bit of happiness," which "Wish Upon a Star" is sure to do.
If you go...
Jenny Oaks Baker's upcoming performances:
- "Wish Upon a Star" with the Timpanogos Symphony, Sept. 16-17, American Fork, Utah.
- "Wish Upon a Star" with the Teton Chamber Orchestra, Sept. 22, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
- "Wish Upon a Star" with the Temple Hill Symphony, Oct. 8-9, Oakland, Calif.
- Time Out for Women, Oct. 21, Richmond, Va.
- Classical favorites with the Great Falls Symphony, Nov. 5, Great Falls, Mont.
- Time Out for Women, Nov. 11, St. George
- "Wish Upon a Star" with the Salt Lake Symphony, Nov. 12, Salt Lake City
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