Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 242 pages
0 Reviews
Charlie Parker has been idolized by generations of jazz musicians and fans. Indeed, his spectacular musical abilities--his blinding speed and brilliant improvisational style--made Parker a legend even before his tragic death at age thirty-four.
Now, in Chasin' The Bird, Brian Priestley offers a marvelous biography of this jazz icon, ranging from his childhood in Kansas City to his final harrowing days in New York. Priestley offers new insight into Parker's career, beginning as a teenager single-mindedly devoted to mastering the saxophone. We follow Parker on his first trip to New York, penniless, washing dishes for $9.00 a week at Jimmy's Chicken Shack, a favorite hangout of the great Art Tatum, whose stunning speed and ingenuity were an influence on the young musician. Priestley sheds light on Parker's collaborations with other jazz legands, and illuminates such classic recordings as "Salt Peanuts," "A Night in Tunisia," and "Yardbird Suite"--music which defined an era. He also gives us an unflinching look at Parker's dark side--the drug abuse, heavy drinking, and tangled relations with women and the law. He recounts the death of Parker's daughter Pree at just two-and-a-half years old, and Parker's own death at thirty-four, in such wretched condition that the doctor listed his age as fifty-three.
With an invaluable discography that lists every recording of Charlie Parker that has ever been made publicly available, this is a must-have biography of a true jazz giant, one that helps us penetrate the dazzling surface to grasp the artistry beneath.

What people are saying - Write a review

Chasin' the bird: the life and legacy of Charlie Parker

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

As one pillar upon which jazz was built, Charlie Parker (1920-55) deserves a comprehensive biography. The need is doubly important owing to the myths and misconceptions surrounding the saxophonist's ... Read full review


1 Body and soul
2 The jumpin blues
3 Nows the time
4 Parkers mood
5 Celebrity
6 I remember you
7 The song is you
8 Confirmation

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Brian Priestley is the co-author of The Rough Guide to Jazz, now in its fourth edition, and the biographer of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. He is also a noted jazz pianist, specializing in the Ellingtonian repertoire, and has recorded several CDs. He is also a critic and reviewer for numerous magazines, including Jazzwise, and a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3.

Bibliographic information