Friday, January 17, 2014

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, by Stanley Crouch

Harper, 2013
365 pp


"What he gave the horn, it gave back. What it gave him, he never forgot."

The ultimate reading day for me includes the following: rain (which we get a lot of down here in the south), a cup or two or three of strong black coffee (no pods -- I love freshly ground) and most importantly, the jazz music playing in the background.  One of my favorite musicians is Charlie Parker, about whom this book was written.  I have been wanting to read a biography about Parker for a long time; when Kansas City Lightning was published last year, I scooped it up.  But here's the thing:  this is less of a biography than I thought it would be.  At first I was disappointed, but I kept flipping back to the book cover with its subtitle "The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker," and came to terms with the fact that a standard biography was not the author's intention.  I say that up front so that if you start reading and Parker disappears for long periods of book space, don't despair and keep going. The end product as a whole is informative and frankly, quite a ride, one not solely for the jazz lover.  It also speaks to African-American culture of the time, and expands out into a look at  blues, swing and jazz in the context of a wider American culture.

You can read more about this book here at my  nonfiction page if you're at all interested; for the jazz lover it is a definitely no-miss.

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