OAKLAND -- As a children's book and CD, "Seasons: Rhymes in Time" is the brainchild of authors and musicians Michael DeWall and Peter Elman in conjunction with the direction and focus contributed by illustrator Sara Kahn.
DeWall sings and plays guitar. Having previously lived in Argentina while growing up, DeWall counts Argentine folk music as one of his major influences -- "Argentine folk music is very poetic; there have to be about 15 different genres," he said. He also draws on such other influences as the Beatles, James Taylor and Paul Simon.
Elman, in addition to his skills as a songwriter and singer, also has earned much respect as an arranger, record producer and multi-instrumentalist. Through the years. he has developed skills on bass, guitar, trombone, organ and piano. In addition to his own CDs, Elman has played with a diverse cross-section of musicians including Willie Nelson, Clifton Chenier, Flaco Jimenez and Lacy J. Dalton.
But as is the case with many intellectual properties, the featured artists had plenty of help in bringing their songs to life. DeWall and Elman co-wrote all of the songs, with help from David Erdreich on "Raining," and from Elman's wife, Lisa Goulder, on "Somewhere It's Snowing."
As it was, Elman, who also engineered the CD, involved his entire family in the project. Goulder -- a respected singer and songwriter in her own right -- contributed backing vocals and played piano on "Raining." Their son, Willy Elman, did the mixing, and daughter Katie Elman -- then 12 -- provided background vocals on "Pickin' Berries."
Overall, the project came to fruition through a strong team effort that also included additional background vocals on "Pickin' Berries" from Ella Rafael and instrumental contributions from Oakland-based woodwind master Pete Cornell and noted percussionists/conga players John Santos and Kelly Ralston.
Cornell has earned recognition for his work with two Bay Area stalwart Latin ensembles, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra and Mazacote. Santos serves as artistic director of the San Francisco Jazz Center and Ralston has produced instructional drums and percussion videos that enthusiasts can find on YouTube.
Adam Kaye plays harmonica on "I Love Fall."
Readers can find "Seasons" in a number of independent Bay Area bookstores, including Books Inc. in Alameda and Berkeley.
Berkeley outlets selling "Seasons" are Builders Booksource, The Ark, Mr. Mopps' and Mrs. Dalloway's. In Oakland, Diesel Books, the Laurel Book Store and a Great Good Place for Books carry the book.
Readers also can buy the book online via the Web site of publisher Chillin' Crow Books at http://chillincrowbooks.com. "Seasons" has begun to catch on as a teaching tool in some schools, and Chillin' Crow (aka Peter Elman and Michael DeWall) provides teachers with lesson plans. It also provides suggested theme-related family activities for parents.
DeWall and Elman also have appeared with company mascot, Crawford the Crow, at school assemblies, bookstores and on field trips. To schedule a presentation, call 510-653-0107.
In addition to "Seasons," DeWall has released two previous CDs, "Dream" and "Soy mericano." See DeWall's home page, http://www.michaeldewall.com/, for more information.
For more on Elman's discography as either an artist or producer, go to http://realdreammusic.com. To view more samples of Sara Kahn's art, visit http://www.sarakahn.com.