Reviews for Duke Ellington : The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 June 1998
/*Starred Review*/ Ages 5^-8. Jazz continues to attract picture-book artists, who find in the improvisational music a unique opportunity to let their artistic imaginations soar. Too often, however, they soar well beyond the reach of a young audience. Not so with this swinging introduction to the life and music of Duke Ellington. Andrea Davis Pinkney's jaunty, slangy text tells a story and does it with a rhythm and style that manage to capture Ellington's era without sounding silly to today's kids. Describing Duke at 19, she says, "He had fine-as-pie looks and flashy threads. He was a ladies' man with flair to spare." Zipping through Ellington's childhood in Washington, D.C., his early disenchantment with the parlor music of the day, weighed down by its "umpy-dump" beat, and his introduction to ragtime, the text takes Ellington and his young band to Harlem, where success awaited at the legendary Cotton Club. Brian Pinkney's paintings, gorgeous throughout, take center stage when the story turns to Ellington's music. Much has been written about Ellington's painterly approach to musical composition, the way he used his orchestra as an instrument, manipulating color, tone, and mood much as an artist uses oil on a canvas. Yet no one has brought that concept to vivid, stunning life more effectively than Pinkney. His wildly colored yet subtly harmonious paintings are the perfect accompaniment to the author's impressionistic descriptions of the sounds achieved by Ellington's soloists and by the band as a whole: a careening car from the Harlem-bound A train illustrates the "subway beat" of Sonny Greer's bass drum; curling kite tails emerge from Toby Hardwick's sax, "a musical loop-de-loop with a serious twist." Text and art work in perfect harmony here, each creating additional layers of meaning that wouldn't have been possible without the presence of the other. And best of all, the joy in Ellington's music, and the joy his musicians felt in playing it, is apparent on every page. ((Reviewed June 1 & 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Horn Book Guide Reviews 1998
Written in a folksy, colloquial style, this biography touches briefly on Ellington's childhood, then concentrates on his development as a pianist, orchestra leader, and innovator of American music. The warmly colored, exquisitely designed scratchboard illustrations have a grand time evoking the sounds of Ellington's music. Back matter includes further biographical information and a videography--but no discography. Bib.Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews 1998 May
A royal introduction to the piano prince. Told in a swingy conversational tone and highlighting the musician's childhood, early ragtime days, and stellar rise to popularity, playing at the Cotton Club and, later, Carnegie Hall, this is a jazzy treat. It is rare to find text that describes music so well. Phrases such as "sassy ride on his cymbal," "musical stream," and "purple dash of brass" carry the auditory experiences of the Duke's music right off the page. Young readers will find more than just a few facts here. They will learn what Duke Ellington did for the jazz world, how his music was played, and the legacy he left behind. Brian Pinkney's distinctive scratchboard, gouache and oil paintings are a harmonious complement to Andrea Pinkney's text. Bright, wild colors on soft neon backgrounds are beautifully balanced with black-and-white highlights. It is the blending of words, symbols, and pictures that bring this subject to life. A page of biographical information and impressive source notes conclude Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews