First Book Of Jazz (Anglais) Relié – 21 octobre 1995
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Langston Hughes (1902-1967) ranks as one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth century. A landmark figure in the Harlem Renaissance, his work profoundly captures and celebrates the trials and triumphs of his exquisitly drawn characters. In addition to his poetry, he was also the author of the novels Not Without Laughter and Something in Common, the play Mulatto, and two volumes of autobiography.
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Sound familiar? It's the first eight hours or so of the Ken Burns' documentary "Jazz," only much briefer and written for youngsters ranging from around ages 4 to 9 or so. Although he ignores all the contributions of early women jazz artists (singers are paid scant attention here), his tone is proudly inclusive ("Of course, people were making music in other parts of our country in early times, too--not just in New Orleans. In New England, settlers were singing their hymns. In Virginia and Kentucky, the newcomers were singing their ballads. In the Far West, the Indians were playing on their drums, African slaves in Georgia, the Carolinas, and other parts of the South, who did not always have drums on which to play, were making up songs to chop cotton to, load the river boats, or build the levees.") and emphasizes the joy of performance and improvisation ("That is how the music called jazz began--with people playing for fun.").
The straightforward narrative, although lacking the "poetic" imagery one might expect, is clear and joyful. This is a excellent introduction for young readers. It is obviously not intended as an jazz encyclopedia, and jazz fans will have to ignore a few of its inherent limitations: The above-mentioned oversight of singers and of women (other than one list of pianists that includes Marion McPartland), the over-generalized portrayal of early jazz musicians as untrained, and limited descriptions of Ellingtonto Jazz, swing, and bebop. (Although, for a book written in 1955 by a non-musician, Hughes mentions Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young). The book includes fun drawings by Cliff Roberts, a brief discography (apparently updated to include Coltrane, Mingus, and Ornette Coleman--but no Miles), a three-page definiton of terms, Hughes' list of his 100 favorite jazz recordings, and a list of "famous jazz musicians" by instrument.
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