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TELEVISION REVIEW

They've got the music in them

October 07, 2006|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

The single fault of the mini-documentary "The Music in Me: Children's Recitals From Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco" -- "performance" would be a better word than "recital," given the range of settings, none of which fits the usual sense of "recital" -- is that at 30 minutes it's over far too quickly. Moving, exciting and hilarious, sometimes by turns and sometimes all at once, it is a deceptively small thing that reminds one how good it can be to be a human living among humans.

Debuting tonight on HBO, with subsequent repeats beginning Tuesday on HBO Family, the piece is simplicity itself: just pictures of all sorts of kids -- little kids, small fry, preteens -- playing all sorts of music on all sorts of instruments, with a little bit of context. Short home video clips link six longer pieces, professionally (and handsomely) shot and edited, that focus on a range of musical styles, but also present a good mix of colors, cultures and urban, suburban and rural environments, and glimpses of family life. This is the sort of thing that television does well -- the seeming bagatelle that brings the wide world closer -- though perhaps not often enough. Indeed, there's no other venue for this sort of thing.

Cellist Nathan, 11, performs and explains Saint-Saens' "The Swan." Tyler, 10, plays trumpet in a family brass band -- it's almost worth watching just to see his little sister, petticoated within an inch of her life, working the tuba -- and moonlights playing bop on the streets of Virginia Beach. Elena, 10, plays Latin jazz flute in Berkeley. Qassim, 9, drums all over Brooklyn, on whatever's handy. ("Where I live you can find music eeeeeverywhere," he says, "which is a good thing.") Seven-year-old Guyland plays zydeco accordion, professionally, in Frilot Cove, La. Una, from Portland, Ore., presents her original song "Global Warming" ("Bush is such an idiot/He won't sign the Kyoto Treaty") in a segment shot like a music video.

It's not merely that these kids are doing something we routinely think of as beyond the reach of children, though they are certainly prodigiously talented in terms of pure technique. It's the depth of their understanding, their unsullied apprehension of music not only as art but as language, and the way they compound a deep seriousness with a sense of play that leave the strongest impression.

This is the first of a promised series whose next installments, "The Leopards Take Manhattan: The Little Band That Roared" and "The Music in Me: The Family Special," are coming next year. This seems an awful long time to wait, but I think it will be worth it.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'The Music in Me'

'Children's Recitals From Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco'

Where: HBO

When: 6:30 tonight

Rating: TV-G (suitable for all ages)

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