STARRED REVIEW
March 23, 2016

Capturing an iconic moment in jazz history

By Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo

When graphic designer Art Kane talked Esquire magazine into letting him take a photo of as many jazz musicians as he could gather in front of a Harlem brownstone in the summer of 1958, he wasn’t sure anyone would show up.

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When graphic designer Art Kane talked Esquire magazine into letting him take a photo of as many jazz musicians as he could gather in front of a Harlem brownstone in the summer of 1958, he wasn’t sure anyone would show up. But show up they did, 57 consummate musicians. The personalities whose faces lit up this rare Harlem photo are brought to life in Jazz Day, a beautifully illustrated nonfiction picture book, through the graceful poetry of Roxane Orgill and the vibrant paintings of Francis Vallejo.

Orgill’s language, paired with Vallejo’s vivid illustrations and biographical notes on many of the musician pictured, builds a rich backstory for Kane’s photo, which is presented as a black-and-white fold-out near the book’s end. Orgill’s rhythmic words capture the spirit of the crowd, from Count Basie to Maxine Sullivan, from Thelonious Monk to Dizzy Gillespie, detailing their clothes, their quirks and their sounds. And the crowd of boys who played around the musicians on the street all day? They get their due, as does photographer Kane.

Sadly, when Kane invited the musicians to show up and be counted on that hot summer day, he asked them to leave their instruments behind, and, similarly, the book doesn’t include an accompanying CD. Readers of Jazz Day will doubtless be inspired to search out the music of these American jazz icons. A detailed bibiliography accompanies Orgill’s poems. 

 

Billie B. Little is the Founding Director of Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Jazz Day

Jazz Day

By Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo
Candlewick
ISBN 9780763669546

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