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Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

illus. by Keith Henry Brown. 40p. Page Street. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781624146909.
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Gr 3–7—From a very early age, Davis was captivated by the music and rhythmic sounds around him. Nestled up to the radio to hear jazz legends like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, Davis longed to make his own kind of music. For his 13th birthday, he received a trumpet and never looked back, though his rise to fame was not easy. He faced discouragement in his ability to make the trumpet produce the particular sounds he wanted and exhaustion from attending Julliard while also playing in night clubs in order to learn from other musicians. His big break came when Dizzy Gillespie left Charlie Parker's band and Davis stepped in. Bebop wasn't enough for him; he yearned to develop his own style, eventually forming his own band to play music that was "cool, relaxed, with a lighter, lyrical feel." At this point in the narrative, the author references the "dark days" when Davis nearly gave up his craft, but no details are provided. The book ends after Davis receives an invitation to play at the Newport Jazz Festival where he stuns the massive audience. Within the text, the word listened is italicized every time it is used to emphasize how intently Davis engaged with the sounds he heard. The author effectively sprinkles in Davis's own words in larger, darker font. The lyrical prose is written in short stanzas that beg to be read aloud. Brown's art is warm, stylized realism that, along with the text, conveys the earnestness and enthusiasm of Davis's beginnings.
VERDICT A great introductory biography to this musician's beginnings through age 29.

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