"JAZZ: My Music, My People" by Morgan Monceaux

"JAZZ: My Music, My People"

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A visual artist pays tribute to 41 great African-American jazz virtuosos of the past with a series of stylized portraits matched to brief appreciative essays. Like the story quilts of Faith Ringgold, Monceaux's paintings (each with a bit of collage -- white gloves for Duke Ellington, silk gardenias for Billie Holliday -- incorporated) combine handwritten text with figures rendered in primitivist style; the writing (biographical notes) flows around each likeness in a way that suggests ripples of movement or sound. Monceaux arranges his subjects chronologically, beginning with the proto-jazz master Buddy Bolden and finishing with Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne -- and his mother, Johnetta, a vocalist ""linked with the leading blues women of the South."" The commentary printed on facing pages is general but well informed, occasionally provocative (Jelly Roll Morton ""was brought up to look down on those with darker skins and continued to do so all his life""), always focused on the entertainers' influences and unique styles; the author also injects personal notes, recalling his first exposure to someone's music, or its place in the life of a family member. A fresh, idiosyncratic view of this distinctly American music's history and development. Send readers who want to know more to the music itself, or if they must have a book, Studs Terkel's Giants of Jazz (1975).

Pub Date: Aug. 10th, 1994
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Knopf