Bird - A Charlie Parker BiographyHere again we get a view of the connection between musical brilliance (or any artistic brilliance, really) and personal dysfunction, drug addiction, and questionable moral character. And if you want to get a look at all the darker corners of a man’s mind and personality ask his ex-wife. Charlie Parker was not an easy man to get along with, either professionally or personally, nor was he, in any conventional sense, a good man, but that didn’t stop him from being a jazz sax player of true genius. It may even have helped. What I found in Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker was a collection of notes and memories from people who knew him presenting a montage that all fits together into a picture. Besides his ex-common-law-wife, most of the material comes from other musicians, and that’s appropriate because it was in music that the Yardbird found most of his life and everything positive in it.

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Charlie Parker – A bad man, but a great artist…

Charlie Parker was a bebop pioneer. He played jazz with Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, and others in Harlem night clubs like the Three Deuces and The Onyx, during the two years of the Musicians’ Union strike when he couldn’t make recordings and so got little to no radio time. We know about this mainly from oral accounts, some of them in this book. Out of that period a new style of jazz was born, and it was as controversial with old jazz players as Parker was with life in general. The recording silence was broken in 1945, and there are lots of stories of Bird in recording sessions, such as the time in 1946 when he drank a quart of whiskey before the session, with predictable results. Bird’s wildness, self-centeredness, and capacity to make up his own rules, in my opinion, added to his capacity to innovate musically. Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker shows that contrast clearly.

Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker
by Robert Reisner
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (August 22, 1977)
Language: English

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