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Celebrating Bird

The Triumph of Charlie Parker

2013
Author:

Gary Giddins

Celebrating Bird

The critically acclaimed study of jazz giant Charlie Parker—the revised and definitive edition of an American classic

Celebrating Bird is the groundbreaking and award-winning account of the life and legend of Charlie Parker from renowned biographer and critic Gary Giddins. Fully revised and with a new introduction, it is a portrayal of a jazz virtuoso whose gargantuan talent was haunted by his excesses and a view into the ravishing art of one of jazz’s most remarkable figures.

Recommend(ed) for curious outsiders. Giddins does the best job of explaining Parker on a technical level, what it was he did to earn his reputation as a peerless innovator.

London Review of Books

Within days of Charlie “Bird” Parker’s death at the age of thirty-four, a scrawled legend began appearing on walls around New York City: Bird Lives. Gone was one of the most outstanding jazz musicians of any era, the troubled genius who brought modernism to jazz and became a defining cultural force for musicians, writers, and artists of every stripe. Arguably the most significant musician in the country at the time of his death, Parker set the standard many musicians strove to reach—though he never enjoyed the same popular success that greeted many of his imitators. Today, the power of Parker’s inventions resonates undiminished; and his influence continues to expand.

Celebrating Bird is the groundbreaking and award-winning account of the life and legend of Charlie Parker from renowned biographer and critic Gary Giddins, whom Esquire called “the best jazz writer in America today.” Richly illustrated and drawing primarily from original sources, Giddins overturns many of the myths that have grown up around Parker. He cuts a fascinating portrait of the period, from Parker’s apprentice days in the 1930s in his hometown of Kansas City to the often difficult years playing clubs in New York and Los Angeles, and reveals how Parker came to embody not only musical innovation and brilliance but the rage and exhilaration of an entire generation.

Fully revised and with a new introduction by the author, Celebrating Bird is a classic of jazz writing that the Village Voice heralded as “a celebration of the highest order”—a portrayal of a jazz virtuoso whose gargantuan talent was haunted by his excesses and a view into the ravishing art of one of jazz’s most commanding and remarkable figures.

Awards

Winner of an American Book Award and an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award

Celebrating Bird

Gary Giddins is one of the world’s foremost jazz critics. His books include Visions of Jazz, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, Satchmo, Weather Bird, Natural Selection, Jazz, and Warning Shadows, and his many recognitions include a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Jazz Journalists Association Lifetime Achievement Award, a Guggenheim, a Grammy, and six ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for Excellence in Music Criticism. He is executive director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Celebrating Bird

Recommend(ed) for curious outsiders. Giddins does the best job of explaining Parker on a technical level, what it was he did to earn his reputation as a peerless innovator.

London Review of Books

Giddins writes with something like Bird’s bravado. . . . [Parker] can practically be heard ripping through ‘Cherokee’ and stewing over ‘Koko’ straight off the pages of this book.

L. A. Weekly

As penetrating a character study of Bird as any yet written.

New York Times

Since his death in 1955, myth-makers have sounded the bebop battle cry—Bird Lives!—but Giddins is the first biographer to make it sound true.

Village Voice

A major contribution to jazz biography . . . has the verve and adrenaline of its subject matter.

Ishmael Reed

A tribute . . . to Parker’s gift and grief. Giddins gives the man his due.

Los Angeles Times

Celebrating Bird is a beautifully written book, and in this carefully updated version, it is a scintillating, moving tribute to the torn and tormented genius of Charlie Parker.

Brian Miller, Vivoscene

Recommend[ed] for curious outsiders. Giddins does the best job of explaining Parker on a technical level, what it was he did to earn his reputation as a peerless innovator.

London Review of Books

Giddins paints a vivid cultural portrait of the era, illuminating Parker’s role beyond simply jazz history.

The New York City Jazz Record

Celebrating Bird

Contents

Prelude to the New Edition
1. Bird Lives!
2. Youth
3. Apprenticeship
4. Mastery
5. Bird Lives

Acknowledgments
A Selected Discography of Long-Playing Records
A Selected Bibliography
Photo Credits
Index