No sitting still during a Jazzy Ash performance — she won’t allow it
To play Jazzy Ash’s new CD, “Bon Voyage,” children will need to use an electronic device of some kind.
And after that, it’s time to set down the iPad.
The latest album by the Irvine resident — whose real name is Ashli Christoval — consists of 12 tracks that encourage physical movement. Most of the titles are self-explanatory: “Hop to School,” “Leap Frog,” “Hide and Seek,” “Ice Skates.”
Admittedly, “Tight Rope Walker” is partly about watching someone else perform the popular circus stunt, but one can imagine that it’s in person and not on YouTube.
Christoval, who has a husband and two children, has hardly sworn off handheld gadgets. Still, she hopes that her songs will provide incentive to limit time in front of the screen — especially for young listeners with a surplus of energy.
“There’s a balance, and we’re living in a modern world, so that’s part of it,” Christoval said. “But, of course, it goes without saying that we’re losing the outside time and the wonder of the world. And that requires time. That requires more than just glancing out a car window. You actually have to get out and experience.”
The singer, whose album will officially come out July 28, is happy to lead that experience. Before coining her stage name, she worked for half a decade as a visiting musician at preschools, and she still employs many of the techniques she honed during that time.
In short, that means an active audience. Christoval begins a typical concert by explaining that spectators will not spend the next hour sitting docilely, and she favors call-and-response lyrics, dance moves and just about anything else that will get children out of their seats.
“There’s a particular song I do, ‘Jitterbug,’ from my previous album, and I say that if not everybody dances, we have to do it again,” Christoval said. “And we do. If I don’t see every single human being at least give me a finger wag, I have my band do the song all over again.
“Well, I mean, we do a couple bars.”
Evidently, those finger wags aren’t too hard to coax. Her cover of Louis Armstrong’s “Heebie Jeebies,” which appears on “Bon Voyage,” was listed as the No. 1 song for a time this year on SiriusXM’s satellite radio show “Kids Place Live.”
Mindy Thomas, the channel director of “Kids Place Live,” became a Jazzy Ash devotee after obtaining a copy of her second album, “Home.”
“I listened to it and thought, ‘This is the best thing I’ve heard in a while,’” said Thomas, who has hosted Christoval in the studio and plans to do so again in September. “We were psyched that she was such a fresh voice. No one was doing New Orleans jazz for kids, and it was such a fun and accessible way to introduce kids to the culture and the music.”
Christoval, a graduate of the Orange County School of the Arts, learned that culture early on. Her father hails from Trinidad and her mother from New Orleans, and she developed her musical ear during summer visits to her mother’s side of the family.
When Christoval performs now with her band — the Leaping Lizards, made up entirely of fellow music educators — she taps into Deep South culture by structuring the show around a riverboat cruise theme. The members of her band take on personas, with one designated as the captain, another as the skipper, and so on.
To promote “Bon Voyage,” Christoval plans to bring her band to the Getty Center in Los Angeles on Aug. 1 and 2 and the Bowers Museum In Santa Ana on Aug. 9. This fall, she’ll join the Leaping Lizards on an East Coast tour, which includes a gig in December at Lincoln Center in New York.
In the audience for at least some shows may be two of her most valued collaborators: her sons, who often serve as a sounding board for her new material.
“They love it, and I’m surprised that they still love it, because they’re kind of getting a little bit older — 8 and 10,” Christoval said. “But they’re always saying that ‘my mom’s the coolest,’ and they love coming to my shows. My latest album is playing on repeat to the point where I’m almost tired of it, but they keep asking me, ‘Mom, play it.’”
IF YOU GO
What: Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards
Where: Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana
When: 1:30 p.m. Aug. 9
Cost: $10 general admission; $7 for museum members; free for children under 12 with paying adult
Information: (714) 567-3677 or bowers.org