November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Jazz Day | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarJazz Day. 74 min. Dreamscape. 2017. $38.99. ISBN 9781520071053.

Gr 4-6 –It was a hot August day in 1955 when Art Kane gathered jazz musicians for a photograph for Esquire magazine. He wasn’t sure who, if anyone, would show up at the Harlem brownstone he’d chosen for his backdrop. He’d put out the word, and now he could only hold his two cameras and hope. The result was the iconic photograph—Harlem 1958—that features 57 jazz musicians of the time. Count Basie was there, as was Dizzy Gillespie and Willie “the Lion” Smith. In her picture book, author Roxane Orgill dives deep inside that photograph, creating vibrant poems about many of the attendees. In the video, four narrators, male and female, read the text and poetry, capturing its subtlety and rhythm. The poems are enhanced by a close examination of Francis Vallejo’s acrylic and pastel paintings, which give homage to the era. In the read-along version, poems dance across the screen, sliding into place like a runner heading home. (Note: in “A Praise Poem for Art Kane,” the word praise is misspelled.) When the DVD finally reveals the photograph itself, the reader already knows the players, and its stark beauty is breathtaking. The author includes short biographies for those celebrated in the poems (which includes Duke Ellington, who was not there). VERDICT This is a beautifully done program that will please jazz lovers and, hopefully, inspire a new generation to explore this important part of music ­history.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

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