Jazz is a music form that is fantastic to listen to and to play. There also great stories associated with this kind of music, stories about musicians, pieces of music, and the history of jazz. In today's poetry picture book, Walter Dean Myers uses incredible poems to tell us some of these stories, and to give us a feel for what jazz is about.
Walter Dean Myers
Illustrated by Christopher Myers
Poetry Picture Book
Holiday House, 2006, 0-8234-1545-7
When people think of jazz music, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the sound of a beat, a thump that makes ones toes tap and fingers snap. Jazz has its roots in the drumming rhythms of Africa where “A black man’s drum / speaks / love.” These rhythms crossed the Atlantic with the slaves, coming to America where they grew, changed and evolved in miraculous ways.
Using fifteen remarkable poems, writer Walter Dean Myers explores the history and world of jazz, telling us about the many facets of this musical form. Through the poems, we come to understand how voice, bass, horn, piano, saxophone, and percussion play singly, in small groups, or in big bands to give people a singular musical experience.
We hear how the music is “America’s music” for band players in uniform, and how, at a different tempo, jazz musicians play in a funeral march. First the drums are solemn, saying “Goodbye to old Bob Johnson,” but later the beat speeds up as friends and family members send Bob Johnson “Along the road to heaven / in 4/4 time.” We hear about Louie Armstrong, who turned London “black and blue” with his music and who turned a sad song into one that was full of joy.
With bouncing rhythms that make the words of the poems almost dance off the pages, this poetry collection is an honest and powerful tribute to jazz and to the people who create this unique music.