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Friday, May 1, 2009

Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane (Picture Book)

Released April 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

When John Coltrane was a boy and way before he became famous he heard musical sounds coming from his own house. He listened to “hambones knocking in Grandma’s pots, Daddy strumming the ukelele, and Mama cranking the phonograph.” These weren’t jazz sounds, but may well have been the kinds of sounds that John later tuned into those tunes that made him a jazz giant. Sounds whirled around him and he listened.

Before John was a jazz giant,
he heard big bands on the radio
and a saxophone’s soulful solo,
blue notes crooning his name.

Sean Qualls's soulful and thoughtful artwork, especially the wide-eyed depiction of Coltrane as a boy, brings a lot to the poetic tale. In the back, under the Author’s Note, there is a clear, concise mini biography of John Coltrane, a revolutionary jazz composer and saxophonist. There are additional musical and book recommendations. A combination lesson of ‘listen and learn’ after reading this book would be a fun classroom activity!

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