Jazz Journey

Anyone who knows me well, knows my affection for music. What most people don’t know is that my love for music is so strong, I typically have songs playing in my head from the moment my eyes open in the morning til the time I close them at night. I must admit, sometimes it can be a little annoying when only one song plays the entire day. And if it’s a commercial jingle, boy am I agitated!

Anywho, I recently stumbled upon the Junior Library Guild’s review Bibliographies to Blow Your Mind and was immediately reminded of a conversation I had with our band director a few weeks ago. We typically talk music when we cross each other’s path, because she knows my musical background and passion for it. With it being summer, I asked when band camp would start and what show she had chosen for the upcoming season. Let me just tell you, sparks flew when she let me in on their little secret. Ok, so it’s probably not really a secret, but I’d like to think I have the exclusive. In honor of the Central High School marching band’s upcoming New Orleans “journey through jazz” show, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to highlighting a few awesome books chronicling jazz musicians. He may not be your “traditional” jazz artist, but I couldn’t leave out Trombone Shorty – the leader of a “hard-edge funk band that employs hip-hop beats, rock dynamics, and improvisation in a jazz tradition” (“Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue,” n.d.) – seeing as though his biography was the first one listed in the review of bibliographies AND our band will be ending the show with one of his numbers.

Trombone Shortytrombone

Written by Troy Andrews & Bill Taylor

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Published by Abrams, 2015

ISBN: 9781419714658

Format: Picturebook autobiography

40 Pages ~ Ages 6-10

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown

Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Published by Lee & Low, 2014

ISBN: 9781600608988

Format: Picturebook biography

40 Pages ~ Ages 6-10

Award: Coretta Scott King Honor (Illustrator)

Melba Doretta Liston was quite a special young lady. A lover of the sounds of music, she soon began making her own sounds. Attracted to an instrument bigger than she was, Melba begged her mother for a shiny trombone at the traveling music store. A self-taught player with a keen ear, little Melba would grow to become a sought after jazz trombonist, composer, and arranger. For decades, she worked and toured with jazz greats Gerald Wilson, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie.

When Louis Armstrong Taught Me to Scat

Written by Muriel Harris Weinstein

Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Published by Chronicle, 2008

ISBN: 9780811851312

Format: Picturebook; fiction

32 Pages ~ Ages 5-9

Awards: Junior Library Guild selection

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra

Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Published by Hyperion, 1998

ISBN: 0786821507

Format: Picturebook, biography

32 Pages ~ Ages 6-10

Awards: Coretta Scott King Honor (Illustrator), Caldecott Honor, ALA Notable Children’s Book

Get a feel for the smooth talking, flashy times of those who played and enjoyed jazz music long ago. Travel through the life of jazz great Duke Ellington – from abandoning the piano, to the unique sounds that forced him to play again, to his famed time at the Cotton Club. Allow the swirling, vibrant illustrations that mimic his music to wrap you into the story and feel the beat of Ellington and his orchestra.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Bakerjosephine

Written by Patricia Hruby Powell

Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Published by Chronicle, 2014

ISBN: 9781452103143

Format: Picturebook biography

104 Pages ~ Ages 9-13

Awards: Coretta Scott King Honor (Illustrator), Sibert Honor, Horn Book Honor

Not your average picturebook, this verse biography embodies the spirit of Josephine Baker. With captivating text and illustrations, be drawn in to witness Josephine dance through life, as if it’s happening right before your eyes.

If you’re in the Knoxville area and like the sound of dixieland jazz, check out Frog & Toad’s Dixie Quartet on Wednesday and Friday nights at Crown & Goose/The Underground. Don’t miss Jazz on the Square on Tuesday nights through August 25th. And remember to check out the Central High School marching band this fall.

I love when young people are highlighted for their awesomeness! So, this the perfect place to share this TED Talk. Listen to this extraordinary 11-year-old perform a classic by Thelonius Monk. He will leave you in awe!


Ford, D. B. (2015, June 16). Biographies to blow your mind: JLG booktalks to go. Retrieved June 18, 2015, from http://www.slj.com/2015/06/collection-development/jlg-booktalks/biographies-to-blow-your-mind-jlg-booktalks-to-go/#_

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. (n.d.). Retrieved June 18, 2015, from http://www.tromboneshorty.com/#!bio/cee5


One thought on “Jazz Journey

  1. Pingback: We Need Diverse Books | Blog, Don't Judge

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