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on 8 January 2014
This book has been in the offing for about twenty years but has not been worth the wait. It is laboriously written with far too much space devoted to sketching in the historical background. Chuck Haddix's recent Parker book is vastly superior
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on 18 January 2016
Kansas City Lightning relates the story of Charlie Parker from childhood to early manhood in Kansas City to when he was on the verge of making Jazz history in New York. It recounts his childhood, his first musical experiences and his rather unfortunate young marriage (like a lot of driven men, he wasn't a dependable family man), his tragic drug addiction, his first professional appearances and his musical influences (Roy Eldridge, Lester Young et al.).

I have to say I was a little disappointed by this book. The colloquial style, whilst providing no doubt an authentic ambience, was sometimes for me a little difficult to follow. I would have liked to understand just what level of formal musical education Parker had, for example. Quite a lot of the book is based upon secondary sources, so I don't think there is a lot of original information in the book.

There is no technical discussion of the style Parker developed, nor how this came together with the musicians to produce bebop, but perhaps that is beyond the scope of this book.

So a useful book to understand the social background of Charlie Parker, less so to understand his music.
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on 11 December 2014
Could (and should) have been a lot better. This book is a seemingly well-researched study of a little known period in Parker's development and personal life. However, Crouch is not a good writer. I am not sure if he is trying (poorly) to put the feeling of jazz into his prose or whether he is unable to organise and direct a non-fiction historical work. Timelines confusingly appear and disappear, Crouch states his opinions which he then (directly or indirectly) contradicts in the following paragraphs, sentences are desperately over-stuffed with metaphors and similes, and the whole work is shot-through with clumsy prose.

This is bitterly disappointing because if one looks are the material Crouch has gathered (lots of interviews with band mates or running mates of Parker's during this era) one would expect a work which should be necessary reading for Parker fans. However, due to the poor writing and editing (the editor of this book should be shot!) it will be a book which will never live up to its promise.

However, it still contains enough new insight into Parker to make it worth reading - just be prepared to battle though sludgy prose to get to it!
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on 9 July 2015
Charlie Parker recorded a track called Koko in 1945. It's as modern and pure as jazz can get. It's perfect, and as a piece of music it demonstrates precisely how brilliant Bird was, and his collaborator, Dizzy Gillespie. Stanley Crouch has written the most exciting first chapter of any biography I've ever read. It's 1941 and the Jay McShann band are about to hit New York. Out-of-townies in their greasy workstained band clothes take to the stage and proceed to demolish every preconception the stylish, hip audience could possibly have. This is before Charlie stands up to take his solo... If you love Bird, and the chances are you do; You must read this book. Genius honouring genius. I'm so happy reading this precise and loving account of this colossal history-making talent.
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on 7 September 2015
Stanley Crouch's first installment on the life of Charlie Parker is a very satisfying read, evoking the social, musical and familial context that characterized the early life of Charlie Parker. Whether or not these evocations veer too much into the land of fiction is impossible for the average reader to decide. Nonetheless, they are convincing and colourful. While Bird Lives by Ross Russell would still be your first stop for the more satisfying account of Charlie Parker's entire life and career, and a damm good one at that (I loved it!!), when Stanley Crouch is through, he will undoubtedly have accomplished something quite rare, namely creating a Charlie Parker that comes alive devoid of cliche yet full of vitality, humanity and genius.
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on 2 April 2014
I cannot stress enough just how well this book is written. It breathes life into a lost era when early jazz musicians fought nightly battles to blow the other guys off the stage. The prose is exciting and vivid, the narrative progresses at just the right pace and it takes insightful detours into areas entirely relevant to give a flavour of the times.

To criticise this book for failing to follow the daily whereabouts of Charlie Parker through his early life is to miss the point entirely, almost like criticising Shakespeare for killing off Caesar early in the play. Yes, Parker is not centre stage throughout but this is not that book, look elsewhere for a detailed account of his daily whereabouts. This book far richer for bringing in the important themes and narratives of the day to fix Parker in his times and allow the reader to understand how Parker became great. It also puts paid to many modern ideas of 'inherent' genius. Parker tried and failed early on. He had to practice intelligently and relentlessly to stand out in his craft.

This is great book for anybody looking for an insight into the times and an appreciation of what drove Charlie Parker to become known now as such a great.
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on 16 January 2015
Crouch does a nice job in capturing the cultural milieu, while providing great insights into Parker's learning process.
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on 10 November 2014
I have just read the first 60 pages and it is superb writing.
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