Mick Carlon’s Jazz novels—Riding on Duke’s Train, Travels with Louis, Girl Singer (Leapfrog Press)—are in the curriculum of 100+ schools in the United States. According to the late Nat Hentoff: “Nothing like Carlon’s books has yet been attempted in the history of Jazz. They are introducing a new generation to the glories and stories of our music.” A six-time speaker at the Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans, Carlon has spoken to audiences about Jazz in New York City,Boston, Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and all over New England. After enjoying a 38 year career as a public school teacher, Carlon lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with his wife, Lisa. The couple are very proud of their daughters Hannah and Sarah.
Through Danny’s view, the reader gets to know Duke’s sidemen like Sam Nanton, Rex Stewart, Cootie Williams, Harry Carney, Sonny Greer and a young (but ailing) Jimmy Blanton. Not to forget the beautiful and intoxicating vocalist, Ivie Anderson. One who spoke her mind while taking Danny under her wing and was an unforgiving force at the poker games, to boot.
Generous and welcoming, Duke and his band members accept Danny as one of the family, buy him clothes in exchange for his assisting in carrying the instruments, polishing Sonny Greer’s drums and copying band parts from Duke’s indecipherable scores. Not bad for a nine year old so, clearly a win/win situation for all, I reckon.
Through Danny’s many chats with the Maestro we learn of Duke’s compassionate sensibility, humanity for others, sartorial elegance and competitive spirit at the poker table. Carlon’s economical yet lyrical and emphatic language is accessible and equally enjoyable for both young and older readers, alike.
As Mr Carlon has expressed in Riding On Duke’s Train – ‘I am trying to express American music as I know it and hear it. Every facet of human feeling is in Duke’s music. It’s as deep and vast as the ocean – encompassing all moods and feelings. From lush popular songs to pounding dance numbers to tone parallel symphonies – Duke Ellington wrote it all.’
So hop aboard Duke’s Train along with Danny and fully ensconce yourself amongst this merry crew. Through thick and thin, underscored by a steady palette of Ellingtonia serenading you along the way. Frank Griffith
Narrated by Dick Golden
Narration by Andy Milk
Review of Riding on Duke’s Train
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