Kansas City, Mo. –Saxophone virtuoso Charlie “Bird” Parker began playing professionally in his early teens, became a heroin addict at 16, changed the course of music, and then died when only 34 years old. His life is the subject of a newly released book by Chuck Haddix, director of the Marr Sound Archives of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Libraries. He is also the coauthor of “Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop—A History” and the producer and host of KCUR-FM’s “Fish Fry.”
Haddix will discuss his book at 6 p.m., Nov. 6, in the Jeannette Nichols Forum of the new Miller Nichols Learning Center. The program is free, open to the public, and will feature live performances by Bobby Watson and Friends. Complimentary parking is available on the 5th and 6th levels of the Cherry Street Garage on 50th Street between Cherry and Oak streets.
“Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker” chronicles a musician who, like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, was a transitional composer and improviser. Parker ushered in a new era of jazz, pioneering bebop and influencing subsequent generations of musicians.
The book artfully weaves together firsthand accounts from those who knew him, with new information about his life and career, to create a compelling narrative portrait of a tragic genius.
While other books about Parker have focused primarily on his music and recordings, this portrait reveals the troubled man behind the music, illustrating how his addictions and struggles with mental health affected his life and career. He was alternatively generous and miserly; a loving husband and father at home but an incorrigible philanderer on the road; and a chronic addict who lectured younger musicians about the dangers of drugs. Above all he was a musician, who overcame humiliation, disappointment, and a life-threatening car wreck to take wing as Bird, a brilliant improviser and composer.
With in-depth research into previously overlooked sources and illustrated with several never-before-seen images, “Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker” corrects much of the misinformation and myth about one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century.
“Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker” is being published by the University of Illinois Press.