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Chasin' the Bird: Charlie Parker in California

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The graphic novel tells the story of Bird’s time in L.A. starting in December 1945, where Bird and Dizzy Gillespie brought frenetic sounds of bebop from the East Coast jazz underground to the West Coast for a two-month residency at Billy Berg’s Hollywood jazz club.


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The graphic novel tells the story of Bird’s time in L.A. starting in December 1945, where Bird and Dizzy Gillespie brought frenetic sounds of bebop from the East Coast jazz underground to the West Coast for a two-month residency at Billy Berg’s Hollywood jazz club.

30 review for Chasin' the Bird: Charlie Parker in California

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    Dave Chisholm utilizes the graphic novel format perfectly as he takes the parable of the blind men and the elephant as the jumping off point to define the structure of his fictionalized account of Charlie Parker's sojourn to California in the late 1940s, less than a decade before his death. Each chapter changes point of view as a new narrator -- a fellow musician, an artist, a fan, a lover, a mentee, and a record executive -- describes the little bit of Parker they came to know during their brie Dave Chisholm utilizes the graphic novel format perfectly as he takes the parable of the blind men and the elephant as the jumping off point to define the structure of his fictionalized account of Charlie Parker's sojourn to California in the late 1940s, less than a decade before his death. Each chapter changes point of view as a new narrator -- a fellow musician, an artist, a fan, a lover, a mentee, and a record executive -- describes the little bit of Parker they came to know during their brief time with him. Chisholm also changes the style of his art for each chapter to reflect the new perspective and uses a Batman analogy to help comic fans like me understand the impact Parker had on jazz music. I have not previously read anything about Parker or listened much to his music as jazz is not one of my favorite styles. His life seems like it could be simplified to another talented musician with a substance abuse problem, but Chisholm helps bring out some of the complexity of his mindset and the impact it had on the people around him.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Hodgson

    There’s a sequence in the final section — wordless, as Bird plays, that is just beautiful ... and then author notes explain how the pages are laid out as measures of music, which makes it even more beautiful.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rif A. Saurous

    A delightful and gorgeous exploration of Charlie Parker's time in Southern California. One of the best books I've seen at conveying the beauty of jazz, the innovations of Charlie Parker and his connections to the past and the future, and Parker's own experiences with racism and addiction and how they shaped him. I learned some history (I can't believe I'd never heard of Jirayr Zorthian and his ranch and parties before), and I've been enjoying relistening to some Parker. The art is lovely. A delightful and gorgeous exploration of Charlie Parker's time in Southern California. One of the best books I've seen at conveying the beauty of jazz, the innovations of Charlie Parker and his connections to the past and the future, and Parker's own experiences with racism and addiction and how they shaped him. I learned some history (I can't believe I'd never heard of Jirayr Zorthian and his ranch and parties before), and I've been enjoying relistening to some Parker. The art is lovely.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    Wow! I was absolutely blown away by this gorgeous and affecting look at the tormented genius of musician Charlie Parker. This graphic biography hit the sweet spot by looking at different individuals' experience of interacting with Parker and hearing him play during a specific period in his life; rather than the overdone "Behind the Music"-style "rise and fall"-type story. This book has inspired me to look up Parker's music, and I am sure I am not the only reader who vows to do so after closing t Wow! I was absolutely blown away by this gorgeous and affecting look at the tormented genius of musician Charlie Parker. This graphic biography hit the sweet spot by looking at different individuals' experience of interacting with Parker and hearing him play during a specific period in his life; rather than the overdone "Behind the Music"-style "rise and fall"-type story. This book has inspired me to look up Parker's music, and I am sure I am not the only reader who vows to do so after closing the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Dave Chisholm's graphic novel about Charlie Parker's time in Southern California is the first book I've read released during the COVID-19 pandemic. It acknowledges that timing in the foreword by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jabbar—the long-time Angeleno—wonders whether much has changed between Jim Crow in Parker's 1940s America and last year's Black Lives Matter summer of anguish. My gut reaction is to say, very much yes, even through the book's lens where Bird must stay at an all-black hotel and permis Dave Chisholm's graphic novel about Charlie Parker's time in Southern California is the first book I've read released during the COVID-19 pandemic. It acknowledges that timing in the foreword by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jabbar—the long-time Angeleno—wonders whether much has changed between Jim Crow in Parker's 1940s America and last year's Black Lives Matter summer of anguish. My gut reaction is to say, very much yes, even through the book's lens where Bird must stay at an all-black hotel and permission to book an integrated band is seen as a great gift or concession. But a character in the story—a white one, no less—extols us never to trust LA cops, and 2020's refrain of "defund the police" rings in my ears, and I question my gut's optimism. Despite growing up in a lifelong jazz musician's home, I am not knowledgeable in the greats. My appreciation for jazz records comes via hip-hop connections: Guru's Jazzmatazz, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Mohammed's frequent bebop sampling, and Madlib's Shades of Blue. My dad is a founding member of the Blackbyrds and, yet, I didn't give much of a listen to Donald Byrd until J Dilla and Erykah Badu gave me an entryway I was willing to take. Even then, my explorations have been solely into the music with very little understanding of the people or those moments in time that made these tunes possible. Chasin' the Bird provided a new kind of door for me. The first chorus is told in Dizzy Gillespie's voice, and he gives form to what it was like being a jazz cat in 1947. The book makes that Los Angeles and that club real for me. He name-checks a few songs, Salt Peanuts and Koko, and visualizes what it might have felt like to hear Bird blow his horn in person for the first time. I immediately went to my preferred music streamer and pulled up a Charlie Parker playlist. My toe began tapping. My eyes closed for a while, and then I opened them again, hoping to have been transported. I wanted to be looking around the darkened smoky room, searching for someone else's eyes with which to lock. I'd shake my head as if to say, can you believe this? We'd chuckle together. I'd wipe my brow and return my attention to the stage, enraptured. The story continues from there, taking on the perspectives of several others who encountered Bird during his time in my beloved city. Ultimately, the goal is to unravel the mystery of what happened to the man in Los Angeles, especially during his six-month-long disappearance from the scene. What we don't get is the man himself in his own words. While Parker casts such a long shadow over the music of his time and what followed, he didn't make it past his 35th year. He never gave himself the chance to tell his own story. And while that's a loss that this story can't fill, it hits all my other sweet spots. It's an LA story. It's noir. It's moody and sexy and a puzzle. The art sings. There are pages—the outro most intentionally so—that I'd swear I could hear. And the words are just as mesmerizing as the visuals and the jazz. In Coltrane's section, the illustrated Bird says to him: The Universe we live in don't waste nothin'. Everything has existed eternally. Every piece of energy is recycled. Every piece of motherfucking matter. You know what else is eternal? Fuckin' soul. My soul stirred. I highly recommend.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matt Graupman

    Following hot on the heels of his four-issue philosophical sci-fi epic, “Canopus,” “Chasin’ The Bird: Charlie Parker In California,” a graphic novel about the legendary jazzman’s comeback performance, establishes Dave Chisholm as a cartoonist of many talents. Mining some of the same myth-building he played with in his outstanding supernatural jazz fable, “Instrumental,” Chisholm turns his talents towards non-fiction this time around and the results are superb. Fair but unflinching in its depicti Following hot on the heels of his four-issue philosophical sci-fi epic, “Canopus,” “Chasin’ The Bird: Charlie Parker In California,” a graphic novel about the legendary jazzman’s comeback performance, establishes Dave Chisholm as a cartoonist of many talents. Mining some of the same myth-building he played with in his outstanding supernatural jazz fable, “Instrumental,” Chisholm turns his talents towards non-fiction this time around and the results are superb. Fair but unflinching in its depiction of Parker, a sublime talent who struggled with substance abuse issues, “Chasin’ The Bird” is celebratory without - pardon the phrase - whitewashing the man’s flaws; by grounding Parker in reality, it makes his legends all the more spectacular. Politically, Chisholm is able to successfully walk a very thin line, being that he’s a white man profiling a black artist, which is not as easy as one may think. Artistically, this may be Chisholm’s greatest achievement yet. The book is structured into chapters, or “choruses,” where different characters remember their time with Parker and Chisholm brilliantly switches up his style and approach with each one. Sometimes it’s Nate Powell-esque, other times it’s Paul Hornschemeier-y, and so on; the variety in his work is exceptional. And don’t let the whole jazz thing scare you off. A musician as well as a cartoonist, Chisholm breaks down the daunting complexity of jazz into something visually poetic and easily digestible. This is a must read for jazz fans and comics fanboys alike.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eric Devey

    A meticulous and tasteful depiction of Parker and those around him

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Deeply researched graphic novel on the jazz genius -- so handsome with bright colors and fanciful characterizations and like the blind men trying to identify the elephant, so multifaceted

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda [Novel Addiction]

    A very awesome look into Charlie Parker's life. I learned a lot, plus just enjoying hearing about it from different perspectives. Recommended for music fans, for sure. A very awesome look into Charlie Parker's life. I learned a lot, plus just enjoying hearing about it from different perspectives. Recommended for music fans, for sure.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Flawless.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I had a vague familiarity with the legend but this was great. Each chapter is called a chorus, from a different pov. Damn right I played some Bird records while reading this!

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Griffith

    beautifully done illustrated bio of Charlie Parker

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephen O'Brien

    Parker's time in California has been shrouded in mystery. Chasin' the Bird provides a insightful imagining of that period aided by little-known historical facts. Being both a jazz musician and artist, Dave Chisholm brings a passion and sensitivity that only that combination can provide. Any Charlie Parker fan will find this both informative and captivating. Parker's time in California has been shrouded in mystery. Chasin' the Bird provides a insightful imagining of that period aided by little-known historical facts. Being both a jazz musician and artist, Dave Chisholm brings a passion and sensitivity that only that combination can provide. Any Charlie Parker fan will find this both informative and captivating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Look for my review at All About Jazz.com.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    In Chasin' the Bird, Charlie Parker is a mythic figure, drifting through the lives of others and leaving behind wit, wisdom, and sweet saxophone tunes. Although the book acknowledges and remarks upon Parker's flaws (his addictions, namely), it mostly comes across as worshipful. This guy is the best musician since the Big Bang brought sound to our universe! Whip-smart, endlessly curious, and he can play the sax like it was the second coming of Christ! Maybe I'm old-fashioned and simply prefer a cr In Chasin' the Bird, Charlie Parker is a mythic figure, drifting through the lives of others and leaving behind wit, wisdom, and sweet saxophone tunes. Although the book acknowledges and remarks upon Parker's flaws (his addictions, namely), it mostly comes across as worshipful. This guy is the best musician since the Big Bang brought sound to our universe! Whip-smart, endlessly curious, and he can play the sax like it was the second coming of Christ! Maybe I'm old-fashioned and simply prefer a cradle-to-grave biography. Chasin' the Bird definitely uses an unconventional biographical format, offering a glimpse of Parker's life through the lens of those he interacted with. It certainly paints an interesting picture of Parker as a unique individual, but it doesn't hit the traditional biography marks. Like, where'd this genius come from? And where'd he go? You'll have to read elsewhere to find out.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steven O.

    I am a jazz studies student at the University of North Texas and I adore this book! The artwork is fantastic and I love the way the portrayed Charlie Parker, by focusing on the music, personality, and artistry first and foremost. This publication is an interesting combination of two worlds that don't collide often. This book is a wonderful representation of an important chapter in Black American Music and is a strong step forward in making jazz music accessible and diverse. I am a jazz studies student at the University of North Texas and I adore this book! The artwork is fantastic and I love the way the portrayed Charlie Parker, by focusing on the music, personality, and artistry first and foremost. This publication is an interesting combination of two worlds that don't collide often. This book is a wonderful representation of an important chapter in Black American Music and is a strong step forward in making jazz music accessible and diverse.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    The artwork and story are very good, but the itty bitty print was really difficult to read at times.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    While I didn’t love the writing in this book, learning about Charlie Parker and other jazz legends was interesting and the art is really stunning.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna Khamushkina

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eddie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Craig Mcgorry

  22. 5 out of 5

    PB&J

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Sallenger

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Kristan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nora Allstedt

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tim Chmielewski

  28. 4 out of 5

    R

  29. 4 out of 5

    Drew

  30. 4 out of 5

    Armando Milicevic

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