OK, this is not just the perfect book for the jazz fan, it is also an ideal book for anyone -- of any age -- who has a love of words and pictures. This sumptuous hardcover volume has the potential to turn the squarest square into the heppest cat. Everyone is a jazz fan in the making: this is just the ticket to inspire them to take a closer look. And, of course, it should go without saying (but you knew we couldn't resist, didn't you) that this book will gladden the heart of every lover of jazz every time, every place, everywhere. Jazz ABZ is a pæn to jazz in art and poetry that simply has to be seen to be believed.
The essence of jazz -- collaboration, composition, and improvisation -- is embodied in this singular tribute to the form. It was designed by Jill von Hartmann -- who deserves an outsize portion of the credit for the success of this work, as the book's overall look and feel provides a perfect container for its contents -- to resemble the traditional albums of 78rpm records from back in the day when jazz was king (right down to the textured faux-leather edge of the binding and the right, front end-paper that is die cut to resemble a record sleeve). Paul Rogers, the consummately professional illustrator – and, need we say it? life long jazz fan – responsible for this beneficent book's visuals, has totally nailed the jazz aesthetic in these 26 poster-like portraits, each devoted to a giant of jazz (we are especially enthusiatic about Rogers's incorporation of Stuart Davis tropes, as Davis, was the foremost proponent of embracing the key tenet of jazz -- individual, personality-driven improvosation within studied, principle-based, formal composition -- into the visual arts). And, thanks to the miracle of the internet, you don't have to take our word for it, as every one of these masterworks is viewable online, HERE, (just scroll down and then click on any thumbnail to enlarge it to the size of the image below). Every one of these is accompanied by a truly wonderful jazz-poem portrait by the one and only Wynton Marsalis that really captures these historic figures in surprisingly sophisticated pieces (surprising in that who knew Mr. Marsalis was an accomplished poet? Not us, that's for sure!) that manage to simultaneously demonstrate a great empathy for the humanity of these jazz champions in the description of their characters and capture the essence of their unique musicality in the equally unique form each of the poems takes. (OK, we can't resist -- check out these excerpts: " Coltrane... Aww but couldn't he capsize calcified conventions and challenge the contrarian campus critics? But couldn't he create controversy amongst the condescending cognoscenti, the (chatty) clever, the certified, and the (merely) competent? Couldn't he just keep on cascading through closely clustered chord changes, cartwheeling through complex, careening, chromatic calculations?" and, how about "...It's Lady Day. She lavishes loving-kindness on a lonely lament. Languid becomes luscious; lackluster, luxuriant. Limp becomes lively; a little – a lot. And laughter lifts longing all because a relentless lady loosed liquid life on lines of mulish melody and lugubrious language to deliver me from lasting lovelessness...") Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, John Coltrane, MIles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and 20 more of the greatest in jazz -- they're all here in poetic picture portraits that are an almost ideal balance of the visual and the verbal -- the ideal companion to the aural and audio of jazz music. And, as if that weren't enough, we're treated to biographical sketches of all 26 titans by the one and only Phil Schaap! And we're selling it for 60% off it's original list price. You simply can't go wrong!