Reviews for Jazz A.b.z. : A Collection Of Jazz Portraits From A To Z

Booklist Reviews 2006 January #1
Gr. 7-12. This striking book combines beautiful design, gorgeous illustrations, and remarkably clever text. It is not, however, a children's picture book but, rather, a gift book for knowledgeable jazz fans, mainly adults but possibly stretching back to junior-high school. The alphabet-book arrangement allots each letter to one classic jazz performer (A is for Armstrong, etc.) and pairs a poem by Marsalis with an illustration by Rogers. Each poem employs a different form to capture the essence of the subject: from nursery rhyme (for Nat King Cole) through sonnet (Sarah Vaughn) and on to Skeltonic verse (invented by Renaissance poet John Skelton, often employed by rappers, and used here to evoke the revolutionary rhythms and infectious high spirits of Dizzy Gillespie). Trumpet star Marsalis has a definite gift for wordplay, and he utilizes it effectively, ladling on the alliteration to evoke the various artists' styles and significance ("Best be behind the beat when Basie's band begins to blow"). Occasionally, the poems run away with themselves (the free-verse ramble in honor of Sidney Bechet reads like Allen Ginsberg at his most self-indulgent), but overall, it is an impressive performance--one that requires extensive knowledge of jazz history to appreciate. Rogers' stunning illustrations, however, will capture the eyes of anyone who views them. Aficionados will notice the way he incorporates aspects of each performer's career into the backdrops of the pictures (Lester Young inset in the Billie Holiday portrait), but the vibrant colors and stylistic flourishes (a mix of album-cover art and swing-era poster graphics) need no backstory. Appendixes summarize each musician's career and describe the various poetic forms, albeit in relatively sophisticated prose. Don't be surprised to find this book in the adult sections of most bookstores; libraries should consider a similar marketing strategy. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Spring
Marsalis matches a jazz notable with each letter of the alphabet and supplies a poem whose form, rhythm, and language suit that musician: e.g., a repetitive poem with lines that frequently alliterate the letter B introduces Count Basie. Rogers's acrylic portraits recalling mid-century American poster art complement the text. Short biographies conclude the book. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2005 October #2
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) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 December #3

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2006 January

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

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