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BEFORE JOHN WAS A JAZZ GIANT by Carole Boston Weatherford

BEFORE JOHN WAS A JAZZ GIANT

A Song of John Coltrane

By Carole Boston Weatherford (Author) , Sean Qualls (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: April 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8050-7994-4
Publisher: Henry Holt

Weatherford’s compressed poetic homage to Coltrane’s early influences relays biographical details through metaphors evoking sound: “Before John was a jazz giant, / he heard Grandpa’s Sunday sermons, / Mama playing hymns for the senior choir, / and the scoutmaster’s call to join a band.” Five other stanzas, each beginning with the titular phrase, both convey 1930s references (Bojangles, big bands) and presage Coltrane’s musical arc to come (“he heard…a saxophone’s soulful solo, / blue notes crooning his name.” Qualls’s mixed-media full-bleed spreads employ a color palette (blue, sienna, ochre, white) and sonic iconography similar to (and not exceeding) his much-praised work in Dizzy. Circles and bubbles populate each spread, standing in for the emanations of Grandma’s cooking pots, the setting-sun sadness of a family funeral and sweet possibility, as John “picked up that horn.” Layout conspires nicely to deliver Weatherford’s final couplet over two full spreads: “Before John was a jazz giant, / he was all ears.” (author’s note, selected recordings, reading list) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)