Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson

Written by James E. Ransome (illus.) Lesa Cline-Ransome
Review by Barry Webb

The language and illustrations used indicate that this is a children’s book; however, the artwork is well done and can be appreciated by anyone of any age. The storyline follows clarinetist Benny Goodman and pianist Teddy Wilson from their childhoods, when they first discover music and began playing their respective instruments, to their adulthood when they were playing gigs in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere during the heyday of early jazz and swing (1920s and 1930s).

The book also pays homage to drummer Gene Krupa and Xylophonist Lionel Hampton, who often joined Benny and Teddy in trio and quartet performances. Benny continued to perform occasionally with the trio and quartet into the late thirties – even after he had formed his famous Big Band in the mid-thirties.

As an adult, and a former music major myself, I enjoyed most the last two pages, which included a timeline of events in the history of jazz and the lives of Benny and Teddy. These pages also include more in-depth information about the two men, and brief bios of other jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.