Z2 Comics Plans First-Ever Graphic Bio of Charlie Parker

Working in collaboration with the estate of the legendary Jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker, Z2 Comics will release Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California by Dave Chisholm with color by Peter Markowski, the first graphic biography of the pioneering composer and Bebop improviser. The book will be released in September.

Chasin’ the Bird’s release will be accompanied by a series of exclusive releases and collectibles and there are plans for concerts and special events. The book will be accompanied by a flexi-disc recording of music from Parker’s time in 1940s California, and Verve Records/Ume is planning a new album that will focus on Bird’s time in L.A., the period documented in Chisolm’s graphic biography. And Z2 is releasing a boxed deluxe edition of the graphic novel that will include two vinyl 45 records with two tracks from Parker's time in L.A.

Considered one of the most innovative and influential composer/instrumentalists in the history of Jazz, Charlie “Bird” Parker is easily one the most recognizable and revered figures in American music, whether you’re a Jazz fan or not. Along with such musicians as trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, drummer Max Roach, saxophonist Dexter Gordon and many others, beginning in the 1940s, Parker’s approach to improvisation changed the course of Jazz music and his playing and compositions continue to influence the nature of Jazz improvisation to this day.

Sadly, over the course of his short life, Parker, who died at age 35 in 1955, was also addicted to drugs and alcohol, which has often obscured the depth of his accomplishments. Chisolm’s graphic biography is based around a two-year period beginning in late 1945 when he journeyed to California, and recorded a number of famous tunes such as “Ornithology,” and “Relaxin’ at Camarillo.” Indeed during this period he was committed to the Camarillo State Hospital as a consequence of his addictions, a section recreated in the book.

Named after Parker’s 1947 tune, Chasin’ The Bird tells the story of Parker’s life by combining Chisolm’s imaginative drawings with the documented recollections of people close to Parker during his years in California. Indeed, Chasin’ The Bird is divided into sections featuring Dizzy Gillespie, sculptor Jirayr Zorthian, saxophonist John Coltrane, sculptor Julie MacDonald and record producer Ross Russell among others—all deftly recreated by Chisolm in differing graphic styles—who describe Parker’s life, personality, intellectual depth, and musical impact.

This is the latest graphic work focused on music to be published by Z2 Comics, which is also publishing a graphic nonfiction work on The Grateful Dead that will be released soon. Z2 publisher Josh Frankel said, “Charlie Parker is one of the most well-known figures in jazz, and to publish a chapter of his tragically short life story in comics is an honor.”

Chisolm, who is a cartoonist, trumpet player, Jazz academic, and author of Instrumental, an earlier Jazz-inspired graphic novel, said he was “thrilled” to be able to thoroughly and imaginatively document Parker’s life.  

“My creative and professional life has basically consisted of a steady ping-pong between two obsessions of mine: music and comics,” Chisolm said. “Needless to say, I've had the time of my life writing and drawing this book which has turned into an incredibly personal and meaningful project. I am beyond excited to share this with the world and help spread the word about Bird's wonderful music.”

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