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Bedtime Jazz Story

Let’s say you have intransigent five-to-eight-year-olds living in your house who refuse to acknowledge the greatness of jazz, preferring candy-coated pop acts. You could deny them dessert until they listen to your old Trane records, or you could simply read to them from Jazz Cats, a new children’s book by David Davis which aims to kindle curiosity about jazz in young minds.

The book takes place in a fairy-tale New Orleans populated by cats of all stripes. “When I was growing up, we went to New Orleans a couple of times, and it just seemed like a magical place,” says Davis. “When I was a young man in the 60s, I spent a weekend or two sitting in Café Diamant with hardly any money, and these guys would come up and start playing jazz. I’m certainly no authority on jazz, but I do like the music, and I wanted to do something about New Orleans and jazz for the kids.”

Davis wrote the book in a style similar to jazz improvisation. “I tried to write the book [with] a jazz rhythm. If you look at the book, it has a little refrain. When I write, I get a little tune in my head sometimes. When I write poetry or poems, I would write it along to the line of music I hear in my head, playing. So that’s what I did with this book.

“First thing when I wrote it, I just wrote what was in my head,” Davis continues. “Then I went back through it, and I tried to walk a fine line between giving them a few facts, like places in New Orleans and a few of the jazz musicians they might not know – I tried to throw in just enough to where a teacher or a parent who did have a little information, maybe they can [help the children] think about music and learn a little bit. So I tried to walk a fine line between challenging them a little and keeping the vocabulary in a rhythm, because kids like rhyme and they like books that sing.” So do we all.

Jazz Cats is available now, from any major bookseller or from Pelican Books directly at 1-888-5-PELICAN.

Originally Published