Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker
By Stanley Crouch
(HarperCollins, 384 pages, $27.99)
Few reputations in jazz are more secure than Charlie “Bird” Parker’s. Miles Davis is said to have quipped that “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of Bird discs, from budget-priced compilations to $300 deluxe boxed sets, are in the catalogues of various record companies. Modern students of jazz, trombonists, guitarists, and saxophonists alike, painstakingly transcribe and commit to memory his spontaneous solos, searching through alternate takes and obscure bootleg recordings in the hope of internalizing the idiomatic language of bebop.