Image result for jazz walter dean myers

Citation:  Myers, W. D. (2006). Jazz. New York, NY: Holiday House.

Overall Review:

Jazz opens with an introduction by the poet. This brief introduction covers the history and major elements of jazz music to provide a basis of knowledge for the average reader before presenting sixteen poems about a variety of aspects of jazz from vocals to instruments and prominent jazz musicians. Each poem is unique with a new topic, theme, and poetic style. Each is also accompanied by lively and richly detailed illustrations to bring them to life on the page. The rhythm and soul that jazz is known for is perfectly captured in each poem as they flow into the next. Following the poems is a glossary of jazz terms and a timeline of jazz history.

Spotlight Poem:  “Three Voices”
Thum, thum, thum, and
I feel the ocean rhythm
Thum, thum, thum, and
I feel the midnight passion

Sweet and gentle, so surprising
Music fills us, hear it rising
Like a charming angel choir
Reaching, preaching souls on fire.

What can I add with my horn?
Is it a new sound born because we are
Or is it just a melody that’s leading me
To where I want to be and loosed from
My tether?
And is it really not surprising that our
Spirits are all rising and drawing us
Even higher
Three souls on fire

Through this poem, the reader is introduced to the three main instruments of jazz—the bass, piano, and horn. Each unique player is highlighted and explored in their section of the poem. Though only one stanza is given per instrument, the reader is fully immersed in the feel of that instrument.

Onomatopoeia provides the beat for the first stanza. The constant low strumming provides the backbone for the poem as the bass provides the backbone for each jazz song. It keeps the stanza flowing as we focus on rhythm and steadiness of the bass.

The rhyme scheme shifts in the second stanza as we move onto the piano. We move from ABAB to couplets. This brings us back to something we’re all familiar with as we discuss a more widely-used and familiar instrument. While everyone knows the piano, they might be less familiar with the bass. The piano’s simplicity and sweetness is the focus of this stanza while reminding the reader that the piano can still evoke great emotion and add soul to a song.

The last stanza focuses on freedom. The horn is often free to move about on its own in jazz and provide a new take on old favorites. The rhymes buried within lines show that freedom and innovation.

At last, we discuss that all three voices, with their unique contributions, make something unique and beautiful when they are together. They are more together than apart and can evoke greater emotion and depth than they can on their own.

Take 5 Activity:

  1. Read the poem aloud to the class once. Play the corresponding recordings on the CD included in the book Jazz on a Saturday Night for each of the instruments mentioned in the poem.
  2. Discuss how each instrument sounds to the students, letting them brainstorm and list words, emotions, similar sounds, etc.
  3. Read Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo and Diane Dillon and listen to the final track on the accompanying CD (“Jazz on a Saturday Night”).
  4. Discuss the relationships among the instruments in the song and the poem.
  5. Re-read the poem as a class and recommend other books like Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler or This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt.

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