Leslie Bixler - Composer, Musician, Arranger
MUSIC FOR KIDS: musically nutritious, imagination-packed images and melodies that speak directly to kids. Also pleasing to adults, who will find the music and stories stimulating and universal. Under her former name, LESLIE LETVEN has had a recording career spanning the last two decades, beginning with her nationwide release “MAKE IT RIGHT” on SinDrome Records, (which charted to number 12 and still enjoys airplay on adult contemporary radio) and followed by “PORCUPINE” which expanded to include the singer/songwriter genre, further demonstrating her unique story-telling gift. Through the revelation of having her own baby boy and the added experience of singing with children at a beautiful preschool, Leslie Bixler opened the door to a totally new world of music. Met by the fresh open faces of children week after week, she began to develop song ideas that came directly out of these musical sessions. When more than one little boy asked for a song about pirates, the need became clear and soon “I’M A PIRATE” was born. And what better person to play the gruff and yet ultimately so loveable pirate than DICK VAN DYKE, who brings to the song a character all his own. After witnessing childrens’ fascination with the photograph and story of her tiny rescued kitty who soon grows large and fat, “FAT CAT” was created. In response to the fact that one of the teachers, Lolli, faithfully wears a different color of the rainbow for each day, starting with red on Monday, and on through the spectrum, Leslie wrote “LOLLI’S RAINBOW”, and from her experience watching children thrive in an environment of love and fun came the growing up anthem ”TERRY’S GARDEN”. But the Garden from which these songs grows is beyond any one place. It’s in the hearts of children and in their rich and endless sense of imagination. Leslie’s songs venture into these worlds, one after another, as she explores the mystery and power of a TARZAN who can “run as fast as the wind, and pounce just like a lion”. This is serious play, because play is the serious work of children, as they build confidence, imagination and understanding of of each other and their place in the world. The importance of empathy is explored through story in “CAN YOU IMAGINE” where Leslie invites children to envision themselves “being someone, not you, to think about what other kids go through”, touching on issues like shyness, children excluding one another, kids in wheelchairs and the pain and isolation of divorce, and ultimately, the importance of being kind. Of course, many of the songs on MOON FOOD are just silly and playful, like the bubbling waves and dreamy harmonies of “3 LITTLE MERMAIDS”, born out of a finger puppet game Leslie developed to the delight of her little audiences. And we mustn’t overlook the hysterically funny “VANCE THE VACUUM CLEANER”, the saga of a well-meaning if misunderstood soldier of carpet cleaning (DICK VAN DYKE) who deals with the very real problem of being “allergic to dust” and who ultimately succumbs to a seriously silly sneezing fit. Musically speaking, MOON FOOD offers stimulating arrangements that incorporate styles of music ranging from rock, jazz, blues, classical and even tango. With co- producer/arranger RALPH CARTER, (who has toured and written with Eddie Money and who now writes for a popular television show), Leslie and Ralph utilized the additional talents of established guest musicans the likes of premier violinist MARIA NEWMAN, jazz pianist DON GRUSIN, reed player BILL BIXLER, accordionist JOELLEN FRIEDKIN and rock guitarist TAKESHI AKIMOTO who currently tours with reggae star Ziggy Marley, not to mention vocal performances by world-renowned DICK VAN DYKE. These top-notch musicians only add to the sparkle of rich imagery and engaging stories called MOON FOOD, creating a package full of wonder and excitement that will delight your children and you for years to come.
Ralph Carter - Musician, Composer, Producer, Arranger of MOONFOOD
Career Highlights:â€¨â€¨Toured with Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, opening for Linda Ronstadt on the “Mad Love” tourâ€¨â€¨Toured, recorded and wrote with Eddie Money for 6 years , co-writing hitsâ€¨"Shakin” “No Control” and “Where’s the Party”â€¨â€¨Recorded with Dave Mason and David Cassidy, co-wrote withVixenâ€¨â€¨Co-wrote music for the “Down Home” television special with Ross Vanelliâ€¨â€¨Produced and co-wrote with Jim Gillette of Nitro (Rhino Records) andSteve Stone (Epic Records)â€¨â€¨Recorded contemporary remakes of Elmo Irving’s East Memphis catalogâ€¨â€¨Trained classically in composition and orchestration at UCLAâ€¨â€¨Composed soundtrack for award winning independent short film “Puddleâ€¨Jumper” among othersâ€¨â€¨Music composer for popular television series”Starting Over”â€¨â€¨Producer, arranger, recording, and mixing skillsâ€¨â€¨Accomplished performer of bass, guitar, piano and drums
DICK VAN DYKE, CHAD SMITH AND LESLIE BIXLER TOGETHER?
"Why did I get involved with "Rhythm Train? Because I like doing children's songs and Leslie writes the best ones I've heard. And it's a real thrill working with Chad, somebody completely out of my generation. He's a great guy."
Dick Van Dyke
“The making of The Train was the most natural and organic musical experience I’ve ever had. Leslie had a vision, and we just had so much fun coming up with this magical ride. it was just the 3 of us being ourselves and getting caught up in the excitement of moment. Our hope is kids of all ages (grown ups) will enjoy the ride as much as we did making it..All aboard!!!”
"Children's music frees me up to be more playful, because there are no rules as long as it's fun and it captures the imagination of the kid living inside all of us. That's where the creativity comes from..and the magic!
It's not often that you find that magical chemistry with another person, famous or not. I was lucky enough to find it with not one, but two people (Dick Van Dyke and Chad Smith) who are delightfully gifted as well as adorable, sweet and kind. They may come from very different worlds, and yet both of them immediately jelled with my perspective and made it all come to life, effortlessly. Once we started working, the train pretty much took off by itself!"
The Rhythm Train Gang - about the cd
The new CD "Rhythm Train" with Chad Smith, Dick Van Dyke and Leslie Bixler is here! (You can go to the Home Page to see the video promo) We're very excited to have Chad Smith, (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chickenfoot) as a partner in crime. Chad has so many facets, along with his virtuoso drumming, he's a great singer (little known fact), has a really funny comedic animated style and a great production mind! You can really get to know him on this album, as a kid, a father, and a monster talent.
Dick Van Dyke is also pretty darn amazing, did some hilarious improvs, and shows many sides as a rapper, and a pirate, a pirate who can plie with the best of them, and the most entertaining train conductor on the line!
We wanted this to be a musical experience for the whole family..something that would capture the imaginations and hearts of children and adults alike. Can't wait for you to hear it! We're also excited to be working with Sue Todd, a great children's illustrator from Canada, on the cover art. Solon Bixler (talented producer and star of the band "Great Northern") lent a big hand by doing the mixing, and Hud Bixler (accomplished drummer and website designer) is making this site a happenin' place as well. Ryan Poyer, videographer and editor, is working on upcoming videos to accompany this amazing CD adventure. Thanks to everyone for their generosity and help. Couldn't do it without you.
Leslie Letven Bixler - writer, singer
Leslie Bixler's mission: Bring real music to real kids. She won’t condescend or speak down to them; instead she exposes them to the finest musicians and stories that she can.
She believes strongly that children can "get it," both wry humor and sophisticated sounds.
On her steamin’ new release, "Rhythm Train" (release date March 15, 2010), Leslie takes listeners on a thrilling musical journey; each station stop shows off a different musical style.
It’s the perfect follow up to Leslie's first children's album "Moon Food," a Parents’ Choice Award winner in 2006.
Throughout the rockin’ ride, Leslie genre skips from folk to Latin, rock to hip hop, African to rap and so much more.
Since in the early 1990s (when she was known as Leslie Letven), Leslie has had a thriving career as a professional dancer and recording artist.
An early highlight was the release of “Make It Right” on Sin-Drome Records in 1992. That album still enjoys regular airplay on adult contemporary radio. “Porcupine” followed, which expanded Leslie’s reach to include the soulful singer/songwriter genre, and further demonstrated her tremendous story-telling gift.
But while her adult career was taking off, Leslie found she enjoyed making music for and with children and began teaching youth classes around the Los Angeles area. The California native/Malibu resident is the proud mother of 13-year-old Robben, who sings the heartfelt closing song, “Thank You,” on “Rhythm Train,” and proud stepmother to Chenoah Hunt, and Hud and Solon Bixler, who lent their considerable talents to the CD’s production. The entire family benefits from the gifts of Leslie’s musician and music teacher husband, Bill Bixler.
She also delights in the company of the many children in her life who have influenced many of Leslie’s songs, including “Cherry Pants,” which was inspired by the kids’ clowning around in their own pairs of — you guessed it — cherry pants!
This ability to make a story and a song from the hilarity and joy in everyday life, coupled with an active imagination, distinguishes Leslie from the crop of children’s entertainers. She keeps the fun meter in the red all the way through “Rhythm Train”.
Chad Smith - drums, vocals, percussion,
Why would Chad Smith, star drummer of the legendary rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, decide to do a children’s record about a magical train ride?
There’s one reason listeners will pick up on immediately: He wanted to show off his silly side.
His remarkable sense of humor gets top billing throughout “Rhythm Train,” where with partners Dick Van Dyke and Leslie Bixler, Chad goes chugging around the world, pretending he’s a dinosaur, a roly-poly, a pirate, and a little lion doing yoga.
Chad’s musical chops are no secret —he’s a key member of the all-star supergroup “Chickenfoot” and he was recently voted best living rock drummer by the readers of Doell & Ford Magazine.
But you may not know that besides his stunning virtuoso drumming skills, Chad is an overall musician, a remarkable comedian, and a seriously devoted father.
In fact, “Rhythm Train” was inspired by his son Cole’s love of trains, trains and more trains. (Leslie Bixler was the music teacher at Cole’s school.) This devoted affection is now immortalized in “Cole’s Train,” the heartfelt ode Chad wrote and performs solo.
Born in Minnesota, Chad grew up in Michigan, playing with various bands in and around Detroit before joining the Peppers and achieving superstardom.
Though he now plays for packed arenas all over the world and enjoys celebrity treatment wherever he goes, his first priorities are his family: wife Nancy Mack, and their two boys, Cole and Beckett Cash, as well as his children from previous relationships, Manon, Ava and Justin.
Oh and despite some physical evidence to the contrary, he is not Will Ferrell.
Dick Van Dyke - Singer, Rapper
Dick Van Dyke:
Eternally beloved as a song and dance man and as a comedian, Dick Van Dyke embraces his rappin’ alter-ego DVD on “Rhythm Train.”
The versatile Van Dyke has been adored by generations of children for his roles as the lovable Bert in “Mary Poppins” and the wacky inventor Caractacus Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
Other highlights from his more than 60 years in show business include the groundbreaking sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (co-starring Mary Tyler Moore), and the films “Bye, Bye Birdie” and “Divorce American Style.”
From 1993 to 2001, Van Dyke starred in the popular CBS drama “Diagnosis Murder,” as a doctor who solves crimes with the help of his detective son (played by his real-life son Barry Van Dyke).
In 2006, he had another big screen hit co-starring with Ben Stiller in the action comedy “Night at the Museum,” which showed off Van Dyke’s still-smooth dance moves in the closing credits.
Now 84, Van Dyke continues his work providing quality family entertainment. On “Rhythm Train,” he revisits the pirate persona that began on Leslie Bixler’s “Moon Food.” This pirate is a cockney-speaking ballet dancing teacher, a disastrous speller, and a funky hip-hop rapper on the track “DVD.” His rhymes really get the train moving.
The Other Players
Helping to make "Rhythm Train" such a fun ride:
Don Kirkpatrick - guitars
Sunny Erickson - add'tl guitars ( "dvd"," fishy")
Dave Enos - bass
Ken Stange - keyboards
Andrew Werderitsch - didgeridu
Bill Bixler - saxophone and flute
Robben Bixler - Lead Vocals on "Thank You"
Back up kid vocals - Hana Bixler, Carina Marazzi, Veronika Levitt,
Davis Kerbeck, Quinten Smoller
Production and Artwork
Produced by Leslie Bixler, Chad Smith and Bill Bixler
Mixing and Additional Production: Bill Bixler, Solon Bixler
Final Mastering: Bill Bixler
Cover art by Sue Todd
Website Production by Leslie Bixler, Laura Glass, Hud Bixler
Artwork by Jeremiah McNulty
Photographs by Suzy Levitt and Leslie Bixler