Santa Rosa author teaches kids with ‘Jazz Fly’ book and audio series
You’ve heard of a house fly, a horse fly and even Super Fly. If you’ve ever seen “Dumbo,” you saw an elephant fly. But unless you have young kids at home, you’ve probably never heard of “Jazz Fly.”
Santa Rosa author Matthew Gollub, 60, author of some 20 books, has released the third in his “Jazz Fly” children’s book series, with each volume accompanied by its own soundtrack.
The series began in 2000, with a sequel in 2010, and continues with the newest volume, “Jazz Fly 3: The Caribbean Sea,” published earlier this year by Tortuga Press of Santa Rosa.
“I’m basically a picture book author, but ‘Jazz Fly’ is unique in that it adds a musical component,” Gollub explained.
The release of the “Jazz Fly” books has been spaced so far apart because of the ambitious production work required, Gollub said.
“There is so much work involved in the recording and arranging,” he said. “My friends give me a hard time. They say the readers of my first book will have children by the time the next one comes out.”
The hero of the series, Jazz Fly, is a talented insect who plays drums, leads a band and speaks in “scat,” the nonsense syllables that jazz singers improvise to flow with the rhythm of the music. He greets new friends with phrases like “za-ba-zoo” and “skiddily ding bop.”
Each book comes with an original jazz soundtrack on CD that is also downloadable. In addition to Gollub’s lively narration, the newest package also includes a musical score by John Simon, audio production by Tim Gennert and illustrations by Karen Hanke.
Hanke, 59, who worked as a graphic artist at The Press Democrat for seven years during the ’90s, is also known locally as a marathon runner. She first met Gollub 22 years ago, when he was seeking an illustration for one of his public appearances (which he’s suspended during the pandemic). Next, she created a cover for one of his cassettes. She has worked on all three “Jazz Fly” books.
“We’ve worked well together, collaborating along the way,” Hanke said. “This past year, I got to meet all of the musicians for this new book. The soundtrack is a musical masterpiece, not just a narration. It’s like a symphony.”
The newest volume’s soundtrack, recorded last year in Sebastopol, features a septet of local musicians: guitarist Randy Vincent and drummer Kendrick Freeman, who both teach music at Sonoma State University; keyboardist Ruben Valtierra, best known as music director for Weird Al Yankovic, and percussionist Carlos Caro, originally from Cuba.
The books not only teach children about music, but language as well. In addition to scat singing, Jazz Fly speaks Spanish in the second book of the series and French in the newest volume.
Gollub draws on a wide range of experience in crafting books that he feels can be gateways to the world. He studied for awhile in Europe. He toured as a performer with a Taiko drum group and worked as ad copywriter in Japan during the 1980s. Since he started writing books for children, he has made multiple trips to Texas, where his books are widely used in schools.
“The books demonstrate to children who are cooped up at home right now during the pandemic that the world is a wide, fascinating place,” Gollub said.
The books are available through Copperfield’s, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Sonoma County Public Library. For more information click here.
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at email@example.com. On Twitter @danarts.
Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat
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