A concerned pastor and a rich musical tradition come together to play an important role in the growth of jazz.
In the late 1800s, Rev. Jenkins, born a slave in South Carolina and later orphaned, came across a group of abandoned children. He established an orphanage in Charleston for these children and others like them, all African-Americans. Jenkins led them in singing to drown out the noise from a prison next door. As money was scarce, he came up with the idea of teaching the children to play marching-band music using forgotten Civil War brass instruments. Many of the children, born into the Gullah or Geechee traditions of the islands off South Carolina, enjoyed playing “rag” music. They incorporated this rhythm into their performances and danced while playing. Success followed, with trips to New York, where enthusiastic crowds urged the band to play “Charleston.” They performed at Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration and for King George V of England, sailing home in dangerous waters after World War I erupted. Some of the young men grew up to play with Ellington and Basie. Rockwell relates her tale in a fast-paced narrative that will hopefully encourage readers to turn into listeners. Bootman’s emotive, full-bleed artwork provides a lively accompaniment.
A notable look at a little-known piece of jazz history. (author’s note, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 5-10)