JJ 01/64: Bird: The Legend Of Charlie Parker

Sixty years ago Sinclair Traill said that Reisner's biography eclipsed any reservations one might have about Parker's music and character. First published in Jazz Journal January 1964


Whatever you may think of Charlie Parker, and his music, there can be no denying that this is certainly one of the best – if not the best – life stories of a jazz musician ever written. The author, Bird’s business manager and sometimes close friend, has in addition to his own startling contribution got together the views and reminiscences of eighty-three other people connected with Parker.

Some of the stories are lurid in the extreme, some are touching (none more so than that by his mother Mrs. Addie Parker), but they all have one startling common denominator – the ring of truth. A wife, a brother musician or just a ‘Bird-fancier’ – one and all, they all to a lesser or greater degree, loved Bird and were pre­pared to tell the truth about the man.

Reading through this mass of informa­tion it says much for Parker’s character that despite his failings, and it has to be admitted he was in some respects a double-dyed monster, it is always Parker the happy man, Parker the big-hearted jazz musician that comes shining through these reminiscences. Whatever he did, and for that matter whoever he did, it is Bird the human being that comes out most strongly throughout the pages of this book.

To anyone in any way interested in jazz, this is a book they must read. Lavishly illustrated, the book also con­tains a discography of Parker’s works by Erik Wiedemann.

Bird: The Legend Of Charlie Parker, by Robert George Reisner. (MacGibbon & Kee. 30s. 256 pp.)