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January/February 2006

Wynton Marsalis with illustrations by Paul Rogers
Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits

Hip packaging that emulates the packaging of a 78-rpm record welcomes readers to open Jazz ABZ, a book that poetically and visually celebrates jazzers from the A of Louis Armstrong to the Z of Dizzy Gillespie. Trumpeter and wordsmith Wynton Marsalis sings the praises of the 26 jazz giants in an equal number of poetic forms. Some are expansive, such as the ode to Jelly Roll Morton, while Thelonious Monk earns the simple haiku, "Tonight... there's Thelonious ticklin'." On the facing pages, Paul Rogers' vibrant, straightforward, poster-style paintings act as the stars' billboards. The volume also includes biographical sketches of the musicians and brief recommendations for their recordings as well as explanations of the poetic forms.

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from "Jazz ABZ"

Marsalis' insider's eye and deep knowledge of jazz swings his work with both insight and information. As one might expect from the jazz ambassador, Marsalis takes on the goal of educating the reader with informed intellect. Because of the poems' complexities, however, one might wonder if this is, as Marsalis has stated, a book for children or really one for jazz enthusiasts. "I notice that kids will learn big words if you use big words," explains Marsalis, who, in whatever endeavor, doesn't favor talking down to his audience.

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