Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California

Dave Chisholm. Z2, $29.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-940878-38-6
Chisholm (Instrumental), a musician and cartoonist, delivers a biographical treasure on the life and music of bebop innovator Charlie Parker (1920–1955). The revered saxophonist/composer’s life was also consumed by prodigious addictions to drugs and alcohol, a tragic reality that Chisholm connects to the vicious racism of the time. Constructed around six chapters, or “choruses,” the narrative documents two years beginning in 1945 when Parker traveled to California as part of a band organized by Dizzy Gillespie. Each of these choruses—based on personal accounts by Gillespie, his lover Julie MacDonald, and record producer Ross Russell—is rendered in a different drawing style and color scheme and marks a different facet of the period. The result is a quasimusical narrative ensemble that reflects the technical structure of Parker’s music, offers ingenious visual representations of Parker and his improvisations, and provides a rare account of his charming personality and humility (such as in a delightful story of a weekend spent hanging out with a young white photographer). Chisholm’s drawings (with luminous coloring by Peter Markowski) combine a talent for skillful likenesses with a pliable and inventive expressive line. This superb book manifests the bleak circumstances surrounding Parker’s addictions while celebrating the musical genius that continues to influence jazz improvisors today. It’s an innovative exemplar of the graphic bio form and will win over Parker fans and jazz newbies alike. The final version will include a flexi disc, not heard by PW. Agent: Jeff Jampol, Jampol Entertainment. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 08/07/2020
Release date: 09/29/2020
Genre: Comics
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