The one year I was in jazz band taught me, first and foremost, that jazz is not my forte. I truly respect it as an art form, but I’m not terribly good at playing it, and I don’t generally choose to listen to it. I watched my more talented (and dedicated!) classmates with the greatest respect–you know who you are!–but I had no passion for jazz. (See below for my best memories of that year!)
That being said, I checked Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph out of the library because I’m a complete sucker for historical picture books–and I was not disappointed. In 1958 an inexperienced photographer gathered together as many jazz musicians as he could for one photo shoot; he had pitched the idea to Esquire magazine, which was doing a story on “The Golden Age of Jazz,” and gotten the assignment. The most famous of the day’s shots was entitled Harlem, 1958, and it is the story of that shot that Roxane Orgill tells so beautifully. Made up of poems from the points of view of both musicians and bystanders, Jazz Day is immeasurably enhanced by Francis Vallejo’s illustrations. The historic photo featured jazz musicians even I’ve heard of–Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk–alongside musicians that were relatively unknown at the time, and Orgill makes the moment of its capture vividly real. (She also slyly includes in the book a poem about Duke Ellington, explaining his absence.) I may not be passionate about jazz, but I am passionate about books, and this one fascinated me. If you are passionate about jazz, it’s an absolute must read; if you’re not, well–it’s still too good to miss.
My Best Memories of Jazz Band:
1)Learning how to play in 5/4 (thank you, Decoupage).
2)Experiencing the Berklee Jazz Festival and a different side of Boston than I’d seen before.
3)Listening to one judge poke fun at Mr. Neves’ pronunciation of Party Time (Have you gone to the potty today?!) during his audio evaluation of the piece. (I’m pretty sure there’s a better name for that, but it was lost to me a couple of kids ago.)