Jazz ABZ and Jazz

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Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits
Wynton Marsalis and Paul Rogers (illustrator)
Hardcover; 76 pages
ISBN: 0763621358

Getting kids interested in jazz can be a challenge in the age of Britney Spears and "High School Musical," but it's vital if jazz is to continue and prosper. Two recent books take up that challenge - both using a similar combination of visual art and poetry to stimulate and educate children about the music.

The first, Jazz ABZ, is a collaboration between illustrator Paul Rogers and the ever ambitious Wynton Marsalis, here donning his poet's hat. The book pairs eye-popping, poster-style images of jazz legends from A (Louis Armstrong) to Z (DiZzy Gillespie) with poems about the artists written by Marsalis, each in a different poetic style matched to a particular musician (a blues poem for Basie; a sonnet for Sarah Vaughan). The trumpeter and jazz impresario proves himself quite an able wordsmith (R, for example, is for Sonny Rollins, whose "robust style radiates roundness"), though some of his poems-as-history-lessons may be too complex for younger kids. But older children and adults will certainly cherish this exquisitely designed volume.

Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers (illustrator)
Hardcover; 48 pages
ISBN: 0823415457
Holiday House

Younger kids may find Jazz, by the father-son team of poet Walter Dean Myers and artist Christopher Myers more their speed. The book, dedicated to the children of New Orleans, mixes 15 simple, songlike poems by Myers pere on various jazz styles - ragtime, boogie, jazz vocals, bebop - with his son's colorful, expressionistic paintings. The result is a rhythmic celebration of jazz ("I got jump in my feet, and I'm turning up the heat," is a refrain from the poem "Stride") that should have kids - and their parents - tapping their toes.

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