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Jazz ABZ.: A Collection of Jazz Portraits from A to Z
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Jazz ABZ.: A Collection of Jazz Portraits from A to Z

by Wynton Marsalis, Paul Rogers (Illustrator), Phil Schaap (Contribution by)

In a swinging improvisation with poster artist Paul Rogers, Wynton Marsalis celebrates the spirit of twenty-six stellar jazz performers, from Armstrong to Dizzy — and showcases the same number of poetic forms.

A is for "almighty" Louis Armstrong, whose amazing artistry unfolds in an accumulative poem shaped like the letter he stands for. As


In a swinging improvisation with poster artist Paul Rogers, Wynton Marsalis celebrates the spirit of twenty-six stellar jazz performers, from Armstrong to Dizzy — and showcases the same number of poetic forms.

A is for "almighty" Louis Armstrong, whose amazing artistry unfolds in an accumulative poem shaped like the letter he stands for. As for sax master Sonny Rollins, whose "robust style radiates roundness," could there be a better tribute than a poetic rondeau? In an extraordinary feat, Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz composer Wynton Marsalis harmonizes his love and knowledge of jazz's most celebrated artists with an astounding diversity of poetic forms — from simple blues (Count Basie) to a complex pantoum (Charlie Parker), from a tender sonnet (Sarah Vaughan) to a performance poem snapping the rhythms of Art Blakey to life.

Matching Wynton Marsalis's musical cadences note for note is the bold, poster-style art of Paul Rogers, highlighted in two phenomenal foldout spreads. The art's vibrant nostalgic feel is echoed in an exquisite design, with its size simulating an old 78 LP and its endpapers die-cut to mimic a vintage record sleeve. Complete with a discography and brief biographies of the featured musicians as well as notes on the various poetic forms, this is truly an incomparable gift book — for older children learning about jazz, longtime jazz aficionados, lovers of poetry, and readers of all ages who appreciate the finest in book design.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This striking and unusual alphabet book includes a very different kind of poem for each letter. The poems vary in length and style, but all play cleverly with form and language while conveying a real sense of the character of the subject. Marsalis and Rogers have selected an important personality in the world of jazz for each letter. The name does not have to begin with the letter, but Rogers has cleverly included the name of each in the illustration, with the relevant alphabet letter as a highlight. All their favorites could not be included, but they have presented an overall collection of 26 jazz greats. Rogers, using ink and acrylics, draws on his experiences as a poster-maker to integrate letter forms and inventive images of each musician in carefully-designed squares using unmodulated flat areas of color suggestive of silk screen images. He also contributes small illuminating vignettes to accompany the identifying letter on each text page, as well as a running frieze along the bottom of the pages of the additional biographical sketches by Phil Schaap. A one-word description of each musician runs alphabetically on the back cover of this handsomely designed and bound volume. There is a cut-out circle mimicking part of the paper jacket covering a record that appears as the title page. There are also analyses of the poetic forms used and a discography, making this a true treasury of jazz. 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 8 up.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
At last: a jazz book that thrillingly, exhilaratingly, palpitatingly gets it. Jazz master Marsalis presents a cycle of poems that alliteratively jitterbugs through some 26 verse forms and 26 jazz greats, from Louis Armstrong to DiZzy Gillespie. These poems are set against Rogers's striking black-and-earth-toned poster-like prints and represent a sort of verbal immersion in jazz. Readers are invited to join in the performance poem that celebrates Art Blakey/Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, presenting them with drum beats and riffs that punctuate the stanzas. A syncopated limerick presents Gerry Mulligan, a nursery rhyme, Nat "King" Cole, a sonnet, Sarah Vaughan. The poems clearly do not aim for straight biography, instead plunging readers into a direct jazz experience, the alliteration, rhythm and rhyme creating the meaning instead of containing it. The alphabet poem that dizzyingly, dazzlingly introduces a deeply shadowed Ornette Coleman riffs giddily through the alphabet, the string of words meaningless in themselves but resulting in a concatenation of sounds that channels his avant-garde saxophone directly into readers' ears. Brief biographical sketches by Phil Schaap and notes on the verse forms round out the text, which closes, appropriately enough, with a discography. Yeahhhh. (Poetry. YA)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
11.41(w) x 10.33(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

WYNTON MARSALIS, trumpeter, composer, and tireless champion of the art of jazz, has been instrumental in bringing the musical genre back to center stage in the United States. The first jazz musician to win a Pulitzer Prize in music — for his epic oratorio on slavery, BLOOD IN THE FIELDS — he has won nine Grammy awards for his jazz and classical recordings, which have sold nearly five million copies worldwide. Wynton Marsalis serves as artistic director for the renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center program in New York, where he created the popular series Jazz for Young People. A recipient of numerous awards around the world as well as several honorary degrees, he was named one of America's "25 Most Influential People" by TIME magazine. JAZZ A B Z is Wynton Marsalis's first book for children.

PAUL ROGERS has worked as an illustrator for twenty years. An ardent admirer of the great poster artists of the twentieth century, he has created everything from old-fashioned billboard portraits at Dodger Stadium to vintage-style neon signs. A longtime jazz buff, he says that one of the best things about being an illustrator is working on jazz-related projects, including prints and program covers for jazz festivals. Recently he was commissioned to create a limited-edition silkscreen portrait of Wynton Marsalis for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. JAZZ A B Z is Paul Rogers's first book.

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