36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Good contemporary work on Parker,
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This review is from: Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker (Kindle Edition)
Every few years a new book comes out on historical figures - Caesar, Napoleon, JFK, etc. Sometimes, something new is added, but often, a repeat of the story is worth the effort even if only told in a different tone and with some different details or emphasis. This is such book. Charlie Parker was a major figure in American music, though probably now much forgotten in either legend or music by a younger generation. Crouch retells the story of 'Bird' from early life through his years immediately before the explosion of the "be-bop revolution". (I understand that another Crouch book will follow on the second part of Parker's career.)
Other good works on the topic include Ira Gitler's 'Jazz Masters of the Forties', Gary Giddins's 'Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker', and Ross Russell's 'Bird Lives' and 'Jazz Styles in Kansas City and the Southwest'. Crouch doesn't add a lot to these (and his narrative is close to that of Giddins), but nicely puts Parker in the context of Kansas City music in the 1930s. There is much information on Buster Smith, Walter Page, Benny Moten, Jay McShann and others who factored into the development of Parker's style. (Though I hope that additional information on McShann is forthcoming in his next volume.) There is also much on his personal life. In fact, this work has more value - and new information - in its telling of his family story, and relationship with his mother, his first wife Rebecca Ruffin and others, than it does as a musicological tome. There are some traditional gaps in Parker history, most notably the late 1930s. Crouch assigns definite dates to his first journey to Chicago and New York, but Giddins has different dates and Gitler acknowledges conflicts in the supporting information. None of these minor differences are greatly important in the history of jazz, but 'Bird-nerds' should be advised,
It has been almost forty years since I read Russell's 'Bird Lives', but I recall it as the definitive biography of Charlie Parker. I recommend it for the single best work on him (and am moved to re-read it), but I highly recommend this Crouch book as a great introduction to the man, his early life, and the 30's music scene in Kansas City.