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Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits Hardcover – October 25, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This electric collaboration between Marsalis and Rogers is an insider's A to Z guide through the greats of jazz. The recognizable giants are all here—Miles Davis with a stunning portrait in hues that call to mind his legendary Kind of Blue, and John Coltrane with a list song that conjures his "cascading through closely clustered chord changes." But to get all the subtle asides or to understand why Joe "King" Oliver's tribute ("the Kaiser of cornet") seems almost more laudatory than Louis Armstrong's, newcomers will have to read the brief bios at the book's close (the King took Satchmo under his wing) by jazz historian Phil Schaap. The poster-like portraits pay homage to each larger-than-life personality. Davis gets a close-up but Sonny Rollins's painting in shades of black, yellow and white backs up so readers can see him swinging with his sax. Marsalis picks a poetic style suited to each subject: haiku for minimalist pianist Thelonious Monk, while a three-page foldout for percussionist Abdullah Ibn Buhaina (Art Blakey) rolls out like a drum score. Each poem brims with words that showcase the letter in the alphabet and the accomplishments of its subject (e.g., Armstrong with his "angular aural arabesques aplenty"). This is a must for anyone who has ever been drawn to a scat by Ella or a riff from Miles or who has whirled around the dance floor courtesy of Count Basie. The passion for jazz shared by this book's creators emanates from every spread—and it's contagious. All ages. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7 Up–Fans of poetry, jazz, and modern art will love this book. With Marsalis handling the words and Rogers the graphics, they have created an illustrated catalog of great jazz innovators from A (Louis Armstrong) to Z (Dizzy Gillespie). Large, colorful, LP-size paintings of the forefathers and mothers of jazz face cleanly printed, sometimes shaped poetry. The stylized artwork is gorgeous, evoking the spirit of pop art, Blue Note album covers, and 1920s advertising art. Particularly eye-catching are the images of Thelonious Monk (an homage to early-20th-century food-label graphics) and Eubie Blake (with hands and a keyboard integrated into the poem), but every page is a delight to behold. Although Marsalis includes 27 different poetic forms, his poems move along similarly at the pace of a drum solo. The selections are visual, but work best when read aloud like slam poetry, beat poetry, or hip-hop. Particular highlights are a playful Miles Davis selection and a challenging performance poem for Art Blakey. In addition to the information about the musicians embedded in the poems, short biographical sketches are included. This uncommon alphabet book will delight readers and deserves a place in most library collections.–Steev Baker, Kewaskum Public Library, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Hardcover: 76 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Nov Gift edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763621358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763621353
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 0.6 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is infectious! For those committed and devoted to Jazz this is a book that will bring smiles and memories and plaudits to the many giants of this most American of music forms. But to those of us whose knowledge of the impact of jazz on the spirit of music has always been from the periphery, here is a book to discover and celebrate an idiom so joyous in nature and in the presentation of this book that new converts are guaranteed!

The concept of presenting famous jazz figures from A to Z (in actuality from Louis Armstrong to DiZzy Gillespie) is a sound one in that it does not tend to group artists by style or time. Each of the featured giants is introduced in poetic form written by Wynton Marsalis, poems that ring of jazz styles themselves. Additional succinct biographical data is sprinkled throughout the handsome design of the book. And each of the figures is brought to visual life by the stunning artwork of Paul Rogers, an illustrator who obviously loves and understands jazz in tandem with Marsalis.

Though this book is being marketed for youngsters ages 4 - 8 or for junior high students, the book as an artwork and as an introduction to the world of jazz is so well done that it makes a terrific excursion for readers of any age and degree of jazz sophistication. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 06
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Bauer on February 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Before I post my review, I'd like to make a correction to amazon's book information which states this book is for ages 4 to 8. Jazz ABZ would work extremely well in a high school or college jazz history class, and would be a hip coffee table book gift for a jazz fan, but it's not for young children!

This is a visually stunning and brilliantly written book. The first page instantly grabs you: it has a large round hole in the center to resemble a classic lp record sleeve. The second page is a glossy black picture of a record with the author information listed on the record label.

Wynton Marsalis collaborated with artist Paul Rogers to create this beautiful book. They selected famous jazz musicians for each letter of the alphabet. Marsalis wrote poems using a variety of poetic forms to fit each musician's unique playing/composing style. Many of the poems were written while Marsalis was touring, and he read and refined them with the other musicians on the bus or plane during the course of their travels. While Marsalis has very strong opinions about other jazz musicians (the PBS Ken Burns series, while interesting, was essentially "Jazz According to Wynton"), he keeps his opinionated and didactic sides at bay and focuses on the task at hand with this book.

Jazz ABZ is a book that assumes its readers have a decent understanding of jazz terms and forms. For this reason, it's not appropriate for elementary school readers (unless they have an unusually advanced understanding of this music). Imagine reading "Couldn't he just keep on cascading through closely clustered chord changes, cartwheeling through complex, careening, chromatic calculations?" to introduce third graders to the music of John Coltrane... I think not. Most of the poems work well with the illustrations and the different musician's personalities and music. The back of the book includes excellent short biographical sketches of each musician by Phil Schaap. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By V. Russell on December 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I found this book on sale at a local bookshop and instantly fell in love with it. Not only does it provide an introduction to Jazz but it also became a perfect tool to create a Jazz theme for my classroom. Although wordy it makes a wonderful demonstration on the power of an oral performance, and the poems can be adapted for students to allow them to create their own. A great way to add cultural diversity for those who are tired of the slavery and civil rights curriculum. A must have for teachers.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Beatrice Izzey VINE VOICE on March 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The art work is first rate: each page would make a great poster, it's that stylized and refined. The print and colors are high quality and elegant.

The selection of jazz greats -- only one musician per letter -- may seem unfair and arbitrary to some readers. But hey, it doesn't promise to be an encyclopedia or who's who! Loosen up! Remember, it's an intro for kids! I like how it's light and not *too* educational and pedantic.

My gripe that it's too wordy, too poetic. It's extremely tiring to read to the little ones, especially late at night at crankytime. If there were a dumbed down, large text version, I would buy it. Seriously.
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