Chasin’ the Bird: A Charlie Parker Graphic Novel

Z2 Comics. Oct. 2020. 144p. ISBN 9781940878386. $24.99. biog
Chisholm (Instrumental) explores the tormented genius of Charlie Parker (1920–55) by focusing on the jazz legend’s tumultuous two-year stint in Los Angeles in this beautifully illustrated graphic biography. Capturing Parker’s complex, mercurial personality by adopting the points of view of a range of characters whose lives Parker touched, Chisholm opens with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie reflecting on the difficulty of working with a man possessed of undeniable talent and tormented by powerful demons and questions his own role in enabling Parker’s hedonism. Later, muralist and sculptor Jiryar Zorthian introduces Parker to Los Angeles’s counterculture scene; a young white photographer brings Parker home for dinner and ends up hosting him at his parents’ house for a few days; a love affair sours after Parker expresses the depths of his rage; and a young John Coltrane receives an unexpected lecture on music theory and physics. Parker’s intellect and passionate engagement with creativity shine throughout, especially in a series of fascinating monologs on his process and philosophy.
VERDICT Chisholm’s compelling creative college presents a portrait of Parker that reveals the lasting influence of a vital artist.
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