PORTSMOUTH — “Flash, bam, alacazam!”
About a dozen kids danced in front of vocalist Tish Adams, shouting out part of the chorus for “Orange Colored Sky,” a 1950 hit for Nat King Cole, inside the crowded tasting room at Greenvale Vineyards Thursday afternoon.
While they were dancing, singing and making new friends — 3-year-olds Ella Cambio and Amelie Wing twirled around and around after having just met — the children were also learning about the chord structure and rhythms behind America’s music.
This is Jazz for Kids, an annual program the winery has hosted for 15 years now. The free program introduces children to jazz standards — slipping in a few tunes they all know and love along the way — while teaching them the fundamentals of the music.
It started in 1999, when the organizers of the Newport Winter Festival asked Nancy Parker Wilson, general manager at Greenvale, if she wanted to host an event for the week-long celebration. She came up with Jazz for Kids after a jazz concert was presented at her children’s school.
Fifteen years later, Jazz for Kids is still Ms. Wilson’s favorite day at Greenville.
“This is so much fun,” she said from behind the wine bar, where she poured glasses for the adults.
Ms. Adams, sporting a WRIU T-shirt and cap — she hosts a Thursday-morning jazz program on the Kingston radio station — urged the young children to feel the music.
“This is not an event where kids have to sit down and sit still,” she said. “This is an event where kids can jump up and down. Just don’t bump into each other.”
And they did as she segued in a rousing version of another tune first popularized by Nat King Cole. “If any of you have ever taken a cross-country road trip, perhaps you were on ‘Route 66,’” Ms. Adams said in introducing the song.
Behind his upright bass, Dick Lupino offered some quick lessons on rhythm and harmony using songs with which most kids were already familiar.
“How many of you have seen ‘The Sound of Music?’” Mr. Lupino asked while introducing “Do Re Mi.”
The band then settled into “Kansas City” while the bassist shouted out “one,” “four” or “five” representing the different blues chords used is the tune.
“We played that whole song with just three chords,” he said afterwards.
Judging by all the parents who toted infants along, Jazz for Kids should continue to have a healthy audience for years to come. And although some of the music-lovers weren’t yet on their own two feet, they still got out on the dance floor.
That’s where Shelley Irvin-Kent and Erin Hull were as they held up their two babies — 6-month-old Sebastian and 3-month-old Sam Harris, respectively — as they bounced along to the music.
“It’s the first time they’ve heard jazz, and they love it,” said Ms. Irvin-Kent.