In 21 poems, Orgill introduces Art Kane’s iconic 1958 Harlem photograph to young readers, spotlighting many of the 57 jazz musicians pictured.
Orgill’s introduction provides background. Kane, a rising graphic designer, had a big idea—gathering as many jazz musicians as possible, at the tender hour of 10 a.m., for an unpaid photo shoot on 126th Street. The inexperienced Kane borrowed cameras to accomplish his goal. Musicians arrived, socialized, laughed—ignoring Kane. Free verse evokes the scene: “camera guy’s sweeping / jazzmen like bundles / toward number 17 / … / no one listens / musicians / don’t hear / words of instruction / only music.” Some poems riff on appearance—appropriate for this group of fastidious dressers. “How to Make a Porkpie Hat” provides instructions from Lester Young himself, then segues to the saxophonist’s iconic sound, "soft as butter." Others muse on the day’s events, both documented and imagined. The crowning glory: a gatefold reproduction of Kane’s photograph; a key’s provided for the musicians’ identities. Vallejo’s acrylic-and-pastel paintings vividly capture the shoot’s vignettes and the skittish excitement of neighborhood kids. Pulling details from a 1995 documentary film and other resources, Orgill and Vallejo offer a dynamic, multifaceted work that deftly juxtaposes biography with praise poem, information with imagination.
Teachers, librarians, jazz-loving families: take note. (author’s note, thumbnail bios, note on the photograph’s influence, source notes, bibliography) (Poetry. 8-13)