Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black-and-White Jazz Band in History

Overview

It wasn't soft
It wasn't black
It wasn't sweet
It wasn't white
It was swing

Brought together by the love of playing jazz music, Teddy Wilson and Benny Goodman broke the color barrier in entertainment when they formed the Benny Goodman Trio with Gene Krupa. This lush and lyrical picture book tells the story of how two musical prodigies from ...

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Overview

It wasn't soft
It wasn't black
It wasn't sweet
It wasn't white
It was swing

Brought together by the love of playing jazz music, Teddy Wilson and Benny Goodman broke the color barrier in entertainment when they formed the Benny Goodman Trio with Gene Krupa. This lush and lyrical picture book tells the story of how two musical prodigies from very different backgrounds—one a young black boy growing up in Tuskegee, Alabama, the other the son of struggling Russian-Jewish immigrants from the West Side of Chicago—were brought together by their love of music, and helped create the jazz style known as swing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
In 1936, the Benny Goodman Trio became the first interracial band to perform in public, with Benny Goodman (the son of Jewish immigrants) on clarinet and African-American Teddy Wilson on piano (Gene Krupa, on drums, completed the trio). Writing in punchy free verse that echoes the bounce of both men’s music, Cline-Ransome traces Goodman and Wilson’s parallel—but separate—paths to jazz fame, before eventually meeting in 1935. Working in watercolor outlined in loose pencil, Ransome strongly evokes the allure of music that Goodman and Wilson both felt as boys, as well as way jazz all but demanded people get up and move: “The stage was hot/ The dancer floor was hotter/ The music was hottest.” Ages 8–12. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
03/01/2014
Gr 2–6—The true story of jazz musicians Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson is told in deep blues and gold with splashes of red throughout. The lyrical prose infuses the book with the spirit of jazz ("Benny blowing /bleating /breathing /music /into Benny's clarinet.") The illustrations are realistic and reminiscent of Jerry Pinkney's God Bless the Child (HarperCollins, 2003), yet the watercolors seem to blur together at times and swing like the music that Teddy and Benny play. The biographical back matter will give readers more insight into all of the musicians mentioned and shed light on how a love of music helped the two break down color lines.—Krishna Grady, Darien Library, CT
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-26
This married author-illustrator team (Light in the Darkness, 2013, etc.) here highlights the innovative, barrier-breaking collaboration of African-American Wilson and Jewish-American Goodman. Cline-Ransome's staccato verse narrative articulates the musicians' parallel paths to their eventual collaboration. She contrasts their backgrounds, describing dedicated musical training, early jazz influences and stints in various bands. (Wilson, the son of Tuskegee educators, studied music theory in college in Alabama, while Goodman got free synagogue music lessons and gigged around Chicago, quitting school at 14.) The two are introduced in Queens, N.Y., in 1935 and click during an impromptu jam. Benny forms a trio with Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa, overcoming—in April 1936 in Chicago—an initial reluctance to appear with Wilson, making them the first interracial band to perform in public. That same year, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton joins up, making it a quartet. Ransome's watercolors utilize a palette rich in twilight-blue, indigo and yellow, punctuated with sienna, red and green. In lively double-page spreads, he captures the band's dedication to practicing and recording together, as well as the verve and excitement of their live shows. Two pages of background notes include more about the musicians, a timeline of jazz events and a brief "Who's Who" of some of jazz's giants. A solid exploration of a resonant musical partnership at a historically significant moment in American music. (Informational picture book. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823423620
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 341,113
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years

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