Literary Jazz: The Smooth Beats of Mick Carlon

CarlonFrom his inspirational TEDx talk on Louis Armstrong’s “ripple effect” to his semi-historical children’s literature titles, Mick Carlon is making his own waves for jazz’s literary voice today.

Riding on Duke’s Train (2011) told the story of Danny after sneaking onto Duke Ellington’s train in 1939, and through the nine-year-old’s eyes, we see the world of Jazz music at the time unfold and we meet a slew of personalities playing the scene along the way. Jack Bradley said of Riding: “When this marvelously evocative novel finds a home in the school curriculum, kids across America will be downloading Duke.”

Shortly after, Carlon turned his attention to the latter career of Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, when his main character, twelve-year-old Fred, accompanies Louis to Nashville in Travels with Louis (2012). Brian Morton said of Travels that “Carlon is driven by a love divided evenly between the subject (jazz) and the act of writing itself.”

In late 2015, Carlon took his wealth of Jazz knowledge and Girl Singerhis love of sharing it one step farther, challenging himself to write to an adult audience with Girl Singer. Singer is the story of Avery, an eighteen-year-old aspiring to be a singer and to be discovered. She’s recommended to Count Basie and thrown into the jazz life, landing in Greenwich Village after a handful of hit records and dealing with a new guest in her life. Reviews sang of Carlon’s unique ability to embody place, his seemingly endless knowledge of Jazz history, and his inescapably sympathetic blending of the multicultural narratives that bled through both the music and cities he explored.

Mick Carlon’s novels are now in the curriculum of over 50 schools across the country and he continues to share his love of Jazz as a teacher in the public school system himself. You can catch him at the 17th Annual Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans from August 4-6 speaking on “A Glorious Collaboration: Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers” or his articles in the archive of the Jazz Times. Pick up one of his books to swing to this summer. 

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About Leapfrog Press
Leapfrog Press was created to search out, publish, and aggressively market books that tell a strong story. Leapfrog began its life in Wellfleet, Mass., at the outer end of Cape Cod, in 1993. In 2008 we migrated to Falmouth, Mass., and in 2012 we made the move to Fredonia, N.Y., a town with a rich creative history and an equally rich present in the arts and science. Our list is eclectic and includes quality fiction, poetry, and nonfiction; books that are described by the large commercial publishers as midlist, and which we regard as the heart and soul of literature.

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