My son is now in the audition phase of his college search which, we are learning, is very different from the typical application process. As a future jazz performance student, he is less concerned with essays than he is with rhythmic accuracy. He is far less interested in his SAT scores than he is with chart reading. It’s an interesting journey for his non-musical parents who are learning to be good listeners and even moderately knowledgeable fans.
If you want to start a library for a young jazz fan, here are 10 books they should know. What I like about these books is that they are colorful, multi-sensory tributes to some of the greatest jazz musicians. They reflect the music they celebrate by embracing the “feel” of jazz. These are books to read aloud – with rhythmic accuracy, of course!
Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo and Diane Dillon (An introduction to some of the biggest names in jazz, this book comes with a CD)
The Jazz Fly by Matthew Gollub (another book that comes with a CD…The Jazz Fly is about a drummer who gets lost on his way to a gig. There have been many times when I’ve been grateful that my jazz drummer uses a GPS!)
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt (a counting book based on the children’s song This Old Man)
Skit-Skat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill (a picture book biography for jazz fans between the ages of 9 and 12)
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Pinkney
Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka (Raschka’s picture books look like how jazz sounds – the words move all over the pages, just like notes)
John Coltraine’s Giant Steps by Chris Raschka
Mysterious Thelonious by Chris Raschka
Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford (a tribute to John Coltrane)
Dizzy by Jonah Winter (another book for ages 9-12…the story of Dizzy Gillespie and the birth of bebop)
Most young children are probably not too familiar with jazz, but there are kids who hear a few notes of Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, and ask “who is that?” When they do, these books will inspire them to keep listening!
A final “note…” While writing this post, a 3rd grade student walked into the library, spread out her arms, and said “You get to be in a room full of books all day!” I looked around and was grateful to her for reminding me how lucky I am.