SOPHISTICATED LADIES by Leslie Gourse

SOPHISTICATED LADIES

The Great Women of Jazz
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 10 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The late jazz historian covers 14 female jazz singers, from Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters to Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall, in three-page chapters in this insightful collective biography. Each chapter begins with the “career years” as well as birth and death dates (where applicable), and is faced by a wildly colored portrait—part Fauve, part Franz Kline—that expertly captures the spirit of each singer. The text is clear and straightforward, if occasionally softened (Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” is described as being about the brutal treatment of blacks, rather than using the word lynching). What is a bit startling—and no fault of the author’s—is how alike many of these stories are: growing up in grinding poverty, discovering music early, multiple marriages and/or abusive relationships, alcohol and drugs. What Gourse did especially well, though, is focus on the description of each woman’s particular vocal sound and approach. She died in 2004, so the text is not quite as up-to-date as it might be—the author cites Susannah McCorkle in the dedication as if she were still alive, for instance. But it’s a revealing look at some of the great ladies of jazz. (bibliography, discography) (Collective biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 0-525-47198-7
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2006




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