The short, frenzied life of Charlie Parker, the creator of bebop, the musical genius who revolutionized jazz, a drug addict...

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BIRD LIVES!

The short, frenzied life of Charlie Parker, the creator of bebop, the musical genius who revolutionized jazz, a drug addict and alcoholic who burned himself out at 34 and now reconstituted from chaos by Ross Russell, impresario and critic, whose own professional life was interwoven with Bird's volcanic career. From the early days in Kansas City when the 15 year-old Parker first sat in on jam sessions with Lester Young and other K.C. greats, to New York City his adoptive home where bebop was born at Minto's in Harlem, to Birdland the jazz palace named in his honor, Russell splices the discordant notes of Parker's life and legend into a tragic, coherent whole. Parker, during his heyday in the late '40's a powerful symbol of black defiance, was a man of mythical proportions. Described by psychiatrists as a ""psychopath"" and ""schizophrenic"" he was nonetheless an ingratiating, enormously resilient personality whose voracious appetite for food (he ordered restaurant meals in duplicate), booze, sex and drugs, led him from success to excess -- a descending spiral to personal and artistic destruction. Russell runs through the storied recording sessions, concerts and club dates, underlining those kinetic moments when Bird's saxophone would hum, purr, snarl, sing and groan -- and also those equally arduous sessions when Parker was too stoned to play or even show up. Unlike so many eulogized jazz musicians, Bird's life needs no coating of ersatz glamour; and if Russell never quite manages to get behind the hostile bravado of the angry Parker, who can blame him? The vibrant intensity of the man was overpowering and -- as Russell suggests -- ultimately inaccessible even to Bird himself. For those who cherish the music, a memorable obbligato.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 1972

ISBN: 0306806797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Charterhouse -- dist. by McKay

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1972