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Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 24. September 2013

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“A tour de force that is the print equivalent of a long, bravura jazz performance. . . Crouch has given us a bone-deep understanding of Parker’s music and the world that produced it. In his pages, Bird still lives.” (Washington Post)

“It is from Mr. Crouch, a novelist as well as a critic and essayist, that we come to see Charlie Parker in the context of his time and place in America. . . One comes away from Mr. Crouch’s book wanting more.” (Wall Street Journal)

Kansas City Lightning succeeds as few biographies of jazz musicians have. . . This book is a magnificent achievement; I could hardly put it down.” (Henry Louis Gates, Jr. )

“This is a memorable book. . . Stanley Crouch takes us deep into places most of us can only imagine—including into the heart of the mysterious split-second alchemy that takes place nightly on the bandstand.” (Geoffrey C. Ward)

“A book about a jazz hero written in a heroic style. . . a bebop Beowulf.” (New York Times)

“[Crouch] crafts lush scenes and crackling music writing. . . Jazz fans will want to read this book. . . This is a thorough and entertaining account of one of the greatest rises—and the prelude to one of the greatest falls—in jazz history.” (NPR.org)

“It takes a lifetime of passionate engagement to write with the intensity and depth of Stanley Crouch. . . The results are insightful, profound, and wholly original. . . This a must read, not just for jazz fans, but for anyone interested in American possibilities.” (Wynton Marsalis)

“A jazz biography that ranks with the very best.” (Booklist, starred review)

“Crouch. . . is uniquely qualified to guide readers on this tour. . . A story rich in musical history and poignant with dramatic irony.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“[A] riveting, long-awaited book . . . Here is Bird making his watershed discoveries before he fired his own lightning bolts.” (Gary Giddins)

“A portrait of the young Charlie Parker with a degree of vivid detail never before approached. . . [Kansas City Lightning is] a deft, virtuosic panorama of early jazz. . . This is a mind-opening, and mind-filling, book.” (Tom Piazza)

“Stanley Crouch’s work is perhaps the most important writing on jazz today. . . This outstanding book is food for the soul for any serious listener of jazz music.” (Madhav Chari, jazz pianist)

With the straight-ahead timing and the ethereal blowing of a great jazzman, Crouch delivers a scorching set. . . Crouch brings to life the swinging backdrop against which Parker honed his craft.” (Publishers Weekly)

“This first volume in the epic biography of Charlie Parker showcases Stanley Crouch’s encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history and effusive prose.” (Shelf Awareness)

Kansas City Lightning paints a profound portrait of a great American musician, but also features Crouch operating at the top of his game.” (Eugene Holley, Publishers Weekly)

“Stanley Crouch has a store of fresh information for you in his new book about Charlie Parker (1920-55), the genius of American music universally known as Bird, and invaluable insights to offer into the meaning of Parker’s achievement. It is imperative that you come into possession of this material…” (Daily Beast)

“Award-winning Crouch takes a deep look at [Parker’s] rich life.” (Denver Post)

“Social and cultural critic, columnist and MacArthur Genius Crouch offers a mix of impressionist strokes, historical facts and context in his masterful Charlie Parker bio.” (New York Post)

“Meticulous and steeped in local lore. . . Feel[s] as urgent as a blast from Parker’s saxophone.” (Kansas City Star)

“The soul of Stanley Crouch joins the soul of the legendary jazz legend. . . Crouch recreates ‘the Bird’ with his writer’s talents at their peak and the result is magical.” (Huffington Post)

“Fans of Mr. Crouch have been waiting so long for him to complete this volume, which is the first installment in a two-part series, that it has taken on a kind of mythic status. It lives up to its aura.” (New York Observer)

“He tells Parker’s story in vivid detail, with a historian’s eye and Crouch’s unwavering love of the art. All of these elements coalesce into one engrossing account of an American legend that is a must-read for music fans.” (Flavorwire)

“The rich details make Parker’s story come alive.” (Jazz History Online)

“[Crouch’s] great, indeed historic, glory is original research, its interviews with Parker friends from boyhood on about the first half of his life in Kansas City.” (Buffalo News)

“’Bird Lives!’ his followers proclaimed, as if a man as brilliant as Parker could not possibly be mortal. But Charlie Parker was a man, and Stanley Crouch’s enchanting biography returns him to the soil that nourished him before he took flight.” (New York Review of Books)

“Crouch. . . meticulously examines the musical mechanisms of Parker’s genius and, in prose that veers toward lyrical rapture, conjures the inner life of the improvising artist. . . The book also unfolds, with remarkable personal nuances, a social history of black America in the Jim Crow era.” (The New Yorker)

“Stanley Crouch’s Kansas City Lightning shoots out of the gate with the gale force of a Charlie Parker solo. . . [An] immersive chronicle, more than 30 years in the making.” (Dallas Morning News)

“Stanley Crouch’s soulful, poetic and often graphic Kansas City Lightning. . . reads like the jazz version of Batman Begins, with Crouch detailing the raw materials of culture, class, and race that forged Parker’s musical identity.” (Los Angeles Magazine)

“Reads like a jazz record. . . Cradling Parker’s past in the long and incredibly fruitful history of music in America, Crouch brings the alto saxophonist to life, his biography an amalgamation of the people who knew him, loved him, and, of course, played alongside him.” (barnesandnoble.com)

“Will send you searching for recordings. And really, there’s no more important litmus test for a music biography. Reading these books makes you want to listen.” (Boston Globe)

“Charlie Parker’s story can’t help but fascinate anyone interested in the most American music of the past century. . . I am eagerly awaiting [the] sequel.” (Chicago Tribune)

“A riveting read. . . Crouch, through years of research, has done an exemplary job.” (Jazz Times)

“Strikes with enlivening insight, and will leave jazz fans hoping Crouch is as good as his word when he says Volume 2 will be out in the next two years.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Crouch writes in a heroic style. . . This 30-years-in-the-making biography of the saxophonist evokes Parker’s life and times with visceral power, as well as real finesse.” (San Jose Mercury News)

“From bravura sentence to serpentine paragraph, the book is a virtuoso performance of musical-literary mimesis. . . . Kansas City Lightning provides more ideas and better writing in its 365 pages than any other book about Parker.” (David Hajdu, New York Times Book Review)

“Crouch’s prose is, as usual, perfect-it takes a genius to write about one, perhaps—and Kansas City Lightning is a thoughtful, generous look at one of the country’s most important artists.” (NPR, Named One of the Best Books of the Year)

“Capture[s] the excitement of a Charlie Parker performance, his incandescent swing, the way he took notes to places they’d never been before. . . Takes us as close as we are likely to get to the early years of a genius-in-waiting.” (Toronto Globe and Mail)

“[A] meticulous biography of Parker. . . . In Crouch’s passages, he very nearly invents a new language for discussing jazz.” (Popmatters.com)

“In Crouch’s hands, the phrase that used to be ubiquitous around New York rings true: Bird lives. I hope I’m not the only one out there who is waiting with bated breath for Crouch’s next volume to see this Bird take flight.” (The Millions)

“An instant classic. . . . With a novelist’s sensibility . . . Crouch portrays Parker’s world more vividly than anything I have ever read previously. . . . Parker ‘lives’ in Crouch’s telling.” (Jeff Sultanof, the Journal of Jazz Studies)


No musician has lived a more transformational, or more tragic, life than Charlie Parker, one of the most talented and influential figures of the twentieth century. From the start of his career in the late 1930s, Parker was a new kind of American artist: a revolutionary musician who internalized all of popular music and blew it back through his alto saxophone "at the tempo of emergency"—even as he wrestled with a drug addiction that would ultimately contribute to his death at thirty-four.

Yet no writer has fully captured the arc and texture of Parker's personal story . . . until now. Kansas City Lightning, the first in a two-volume life of Parker by Stanley Crouch, draws on decades of original interviews with peers, collaborators, and family members to reveal Parker as he emerged from the landscapes—literal and artistic—that he inhabited. A precocious child, shy yet self-possessed, Charlie ventured early into the nightlife of wide-open Depression Kansas City, a veritable stomping ground for such bandleaders as Walter Page, Bennie Moten, and Moten's successor, Count Basie, the king of Kansas City swing. Inspired by saxophonists Lester Young and Chu Berry, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and his mentor Buster Smith, Parker endured initial humiliation on the bandstand—yet persevered until he mastered the idiom and began to transcend it.

Kansas City Lightning follows Parker from the "freak shows" and "spook breakfasts" of late-night Kansas City, to the segregated union halls of Chicago, and finally to New York's Harlem ballrooms. Most intimately, it brings us into young Charlie Parker's family circle, as he plunged headlong into a very adult world—lured by both music and drugs, torn between his oddly protective mother and Rebecca Ruffin, the impressionable young woman whose romance with Charlie is at the bittersweet heart of this story.

With the musical wisdom of a lifetime jazz scholar, the cultural insights of an indispensable social critic, and the narrative skill of a writer at the height of his powers, Crouch brings Parker back to glorious, surprising, and deeply moving life.

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HASH(0x964cc9e4) von 5 Sternen Good contemporary work on Parker 27. Oktober 2013
Von Greg Prachar - Pacific Palisades, CA - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Every few years a new book comes out on historical figures - Caesar, Napoleon, JFK, etc. Sometimes, something new is added, but often, a repeat of the story is worth the effort even if only told in a different tone and with some different details or emphasis. This is such book. Charlie Parker was a major figure in American music, though probably now much forgotten in either legend or music by a younger generation. Crouch retells the story of 'Bird' from early life through his years immediately before the explosion of the "be-bop revolution". (I understand that another Crouch book will follow on the second part of Parker's career.)

Other good works on the topic include Ira Gitler's 'Jazz Masters of the Forties', Gary Giddins's 'Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker', and Ross Russell's 'Bird Lives' and 'Jazz Styles in Kansas City and the Southwest'. Crouch doesn't add a lot to these (and his narrative is close to that of Giddins), but nicely puts Parker in the context of Kansas City music in the 1930s. There is much information on Buster Smith, Walter Page, Benny Moten, Jay McShann and others who factored into the development of Parker's style. (Though I hope that additional information on McShann is forthcoming in his next volume.) There is also much on his personal life. In fact, this work has more value - and new information - in its telling of his family story, and relationship with his mother, his first wife Rebecca Ruffin and others, than it does as a musicological tome. There are some traditional gaps in Parker history, most notably the late 1930s. Crouch assigns definite dates to his first journey to Chicago and New York, but Giddins has different dates and Gitler acknowledges conflicts in the supporting information. None of these minor differences are greatly important in the history of jazz, but 'Bird-nerds' should be advised,

It has been almost forty years since I read Russell's 'Bird Lives', but I recall it as the definitive biography of Charlie Parker. I recommend it for the single best work on him (and am moved to re-read it), but I highly recommend this Crouch book as a great introduction to the man, his early life, and the 30's music scene in Kansas City.
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HASH(0x964ccc30) von 5 Sternen No Ordinary Biography of No Ordinary Man 28. Oktober 2013
Von Joseph Palen - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
This biography is more a work of modern art than a documentary. Like most modern art, at first glance many of us will say, "What is he trying to do here." I had the same feeling when I first heard a recording of Charley Parker. So I guess it is fitting that his biography reads the same way. It is not that Stanley Crouch does not know how to write - this is far from his first book on Jazz, or African American History, or many other subjects. Therefore, I must assume he writes this way - flowery excess language, wide forays from the subject into related subjects, then return to the story line, like the jazz player, who leaves the melody to return later after many embellished variations.

To understand the storyline or "tune" of this biography, read and memorize Chapter One. It culminates in a New York radio session with Jay McShann's band, recently arrived from Kansas City for a second try at the big time, this time with young Charley Parker - who had not yet shown up for the gig. As the band finished swinging some preliminary tunes and were ready to swing into Charley's now trademarked "Cherokee" everyone held their breath. Charley was well into his second trip with the big H and prone to show or not show. As he finally walked in there was a collective sigh of relief as the band kicked into Cherokee and Charley proceeded to blow the roof off with high velocity rips through complex chord changes, the likes of which no one there or in radio land had ever heard before from a saxophone. This was the pinnacle to which the rest of the book climbed in a winding back and forth path - including grade school, high school band, domineering mother, childhood girlfriend whom he married, Kansas city in prohibition jazz club Prendergast days, Charlie's embarrassing rejections from his early tries to join KC jam sessions, his incredible determination to learn the sax, involving up to 15 hours a day practice. In later years, his dedication to find his own sound, resulted in leaving his wife and baby to go to New York and continue his search. It was amazing to me to find that this supposed musical genius had so much trouble, and not just with drugs, as has been highly reported, but with his music, which he worked on constantly (reminding us of what Edison said about inspiration and perspiration).

After winding through Parker's many disappointments, with numerous forays into such things as African and Native American history, history of the railroads, and, of course, history of jazz, the Author takes Parker riding the rails to New York where he finds a guitar player of kindred spirit (Biddy Fleet) and they spend much time practicing complex chord changes. As he comes to that pinnacle experience and the end of the Story, Crouch picks another note in the chord of the tune and says: "During his most satisfying bandstand experience, Charlie Parker knew what every talented jazz musician has, before and after: how to listen and hear, instant by instant, and how to respond to that instant, gone now and never to return."

The last twenty percent of the book is about Stanley Crouch, his family history, his many interviews to write this book (which he claims took 30 years), and the many footnote comments (indexed by page, so hard to locate on an e-reader) - that is where we find hidden the reason for Parker's nickname, "Yardbird, or Bird". There is nothing about Bird's further career, his hooking up with Dizzy and inventing Bebop, or his move to California, relapse into drugs and drinking, time spent in the Camarillo mental hospital, recovery, more recordings, then relapse and death. For this part of Parker's life, another book (or Wikipedia) will be required. However, for this reader, who lived not too far from Kansas City when Bird was there but knew nothing about him then, the detailed description of what went on with the Kansas City Jazz scene in those days was very interesting. Crouch's writing style was often as hard to follow as Bird's music. But if you like modern art and you like jazz, you probably will like this book.
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HASH(0x964ccbf4) von 5 Sternen A Spectacular Book About a Spectacular Man 26. September 2013
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
If you want to read a book, a spectacular book about a spectacular man, try Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning, the story of Charley "Bird" Parker.

Stanley Crouch writes like one of those big pre-emissions V-8s they used to build in Detroit with multiple mammoth carburetors, minimal gas mileage, and no tomorrow if you held the gas pedal down. On American roads they'd obliterate cute little hottie sports cars, and that's what Crouch has done to jazz writing with Kansas City Lightning, his biography of the legendary Charlie Parker, who personified jazz during that wild WW2 period when be-bop sprang forth to confound the music world.

Parker, a.k.a. Bird, is an unnerving figure, profoundly talented and intelligent. He climbed as far and as fast in every way as could be done in thirty five years, the quintessential boy from the provinces. He was the bomb. From being thrown off the bandstand in his teens, he became the greatest horn man of his time, and he did it on the very unforgiving alto saxophone. From an obscure ghetto childhood in Kansas City he became a favorite of Nica de Koenigswarter, another legend, a Rothschild who was the patron of all time. Every jazz fan knows the melodrama of Bird's death while watching TV in the apartment of the Baroness Nica, and instead of that, Crouch gives us his brief, brilliant, fated life: when he died, his work was truly done. People were scrawling Bird Lives! on walls for years afterward, and he did that - no reedman has ever been so influential, dominating, loved and imitated. Everyone wanted to play like Bird, and no one could. I spent years trying.

Jazz books, be they fact or fiction, tend to be on the thin side. Young Man With A Horn does embody some essence of the twenties, but it's a white book, and jazz is a black music. No matter that Bix Beiderbecke was the Keats of jazz cornet, it was his good friend Louis Armstrong who was the virtuoso, doing impossible things night after night, decade after decade. Bird dominated the same way, picking up where Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins left off, playing with unheard of velocity, sophistication and pure beauty, fusing blues and those nifty mostly Jewish tunes from musicals into something strange and new, and incomprehensible to those for whom Benny Goodman's Carnegie Hall Concert was the crowning achievement of jazz music. Bird and bop announced something as shattering to its world as abstract expressionism was to painting.

Crouch delves into Bird's tortured self and meteoric life, bringing it to the reader as only great biographers can do. Gone is the contentious intellectual of earlier books, debates and forums, and the columnist for the Daily News. The novelist of Don't The Moon Look Lonesome comes forth, twinned with a tireless, hypnotic researcher who hunkers down in Parker's home town and tracks down the people around him in childhood and youth. And gets them to tell all. Crouch can be a tedious explainer, but he is so in love with the truth about his subject that this inclination is simply burned away.

Within a few paragraphs, Crouch conveys the feel of the thirties as experienced in wide-open Kansas City, where there was no Great Depression for jazz musicians. There were many bands, epic parties, and fierce proud competition. Kansas City was corrupt under Boss Pendergast, but it was a "boomtown for jazz, with mother lodes of style and gushers of swing." It was a red-hot creative crucible, as New Orleans and Chicago had been before, with musicians living for the music and finding themselves as artists in the heat of the jams and the chilly woodsheds where they practiced. Bands battled, great rooms full of people danced, and Jay McShann had the boss band. In it was the skinny 21 year old Parker with his soaring, searing alto, about to reinvent the music. Only a musician can fully appreciate the taste and texture of that, and Crouch was one himself back before he became an American oracle - a jazz drummer on the New York scene of the sixties and seventies, later booking bands into the Tin Palace and making it a cultural nexus.

He captures Parker's charm in talking a cop out of a ticket in Central Park as McShann's battered band arrives New York on its way to the Woodside Hotel, immortalized in Count Basie's Jumpin at the Woodside. In hardly any words at all he creates Harlem for us, a Harlem no less vivid than that of Chester Himes. Then he captures the junk-sick chill when Bird immediately leaves the hotel, a chill that haunted Parker almost all his life and created a generation of junky musicians who thought that was his secret.

Here and throughout, the book is a fascinating picture of the jazz life, of musicians eating and joking and hanging out, an uber-family in which Parker was both a legend and a notorious moneyless addict. The rich texture and detailing are amazing. Why were there two bandstands at the Savoy ballroom? So bands could battle without the distraction of one band leaving the stand and another setting up. Who went to the Savoy? Lana Turner, Greta Garbo, and, and, and... Did black real estate agent Charlie Buchanan own the Savoy ballroom where McShann would wipe out the Lucky Millinder band? Not really - it was two Jewish brothers re-named Gale. Does it matter? Definitely, because the music business and the music itself involves this ethnic relationship. The tens of thousands of black musicians schooling themselves on I Got Rhythm chords were studying George Gershwin. Louis Armstrong's career was crucially expedited and sustained by a Jewish manager who saved hin from the mob. Rich, relevant detail is a Crouch gift. Only academics dream of researching as he did, and this book is anything but academic. It leaps off the page.

How did Bird come to be? Who was he? Crouch infiltrates Kansas City as only a New York hustler on a mission could do. He goes back into the family bloodlines (totally hybridized, American style). He looks into the grandparents, and dwells a moment on Parker's handsome, charming, hard-drinking hell-raising dad. And his mother, his all-important mother, who eventually gave up on his dad and put everything into her son, whose innocent promise is written into the shy, hopeful photograph that opens the book. He notes his Roman Catholic schooling, notoriously the best and most disciplined generally available, and details his upbringing as a kind of young prince, dressed to the nines, never allowed to take a part time job. But he also quotes people close to the family who felt there was no love at the core of her devotion. He delves deep into those childhood friends and neighbors, and how the neighborhood operated, and tells about his very serious relationship with first wife, with whom he was in love from boyhood, and about his very different half-white brother. It's like Mark Twain on life in Hannibal, Missouri - pure America without much money to corrupt it.

There is very little Crouch failed to uncover about the nascent Bird, including his love of Sherlock Holmes (who was devoted to injecting cocaine), or about the grown man who who could never kick his habit for long. We see him in flush times, and we see him learning to hop a train, showing up in Chicago broke with no horn, half-starved, in funky old clothes. We see his chameleon ability to fit in anywhere very quickly through his gift for mimicry. And we see his inescapable genius as it evolved through intense creative relationships with musicians long forgotten. No one I ever met heard of Biddy Fleet, but Crouch did, and tells us how they shared an extended exploration of difficult tunes that other players avoided - which leads to his legendary breakthrough with Cherokee, a tricky tune that fascinated him and liberated him.

Crouch shows us a man changing his world as surely as Van Gogh in Arles or Beethoven in Vienna. We see him up close, and what he went through to do it. Kansas City Lightning is biography of the highest level, written about a musician, by a musician who also happens to be a very powerful writer. It's also loaded with pungent history of all kinds. American history that jumps off the page and grabs you.

-- Bjarne Rostaing, author of "Breeders," "Iron Crossing" and "Til Death Do Us Partner"
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HASH(0x964d01ec) von 5 Sternen Interested in Important things... 9. Oktober 2013
Von Ken Mask - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
It is rare to find a biography of this magnitude. Mr. Crouch does an excellent job of putting the complexities and dynamics of Charlie Parker's life into focus. The book is 'arranged' the manner of a musical score. This story has been marked, shaped, redone, formed, kneaded and baked. We are looking at well delivered FINAL draft. It is thoroughly researched and carefully told. This work is done with style & precise detail. There are historic references which demonstrate solid & meaningful participation. It has the 'page turner' quality often limited to best seller novels...it reads like a story told at bedtime to children, to motivate them along a course of greatness. It flows like a lecture on the wonderful nature of humanity, outlining everything from settling the Western United States & breeding of horse in those plains, to the contributions of early 19th century Southern 'old timey' musicians to the tangible engagement of 20th century musicians who challenged each other on this very complicated network of 'notes on a page' which produce ART. We get a glimpse at those who forged the paths which led to such a great individual's capacity for 'such' spiritual and mechanical alignment. You are there at Cotton Club battle of the bands, you are there when Charlie Parker discovers adolescent love, you are there when he is driven to a level of superb dexterity & genius which makes him THE unique contributor we have grown to know. This biography is written with dedicated integrity.
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HASH(0x964ccf84) von 5 Sternen The EARLY times of Charlie Parker 8. Dezember 2013
Von Read-A-Lot - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This book both fascinates and frustrates. It's fascinating in that context is richly provided and Bird is thoroughly situated in the era of his time. The Kansas City of Bird's time is earnestly unpacked so that the reader gets a full understanding of the environment that Bird was navigating.

We follow young Charlie through his very early years and his entry into high school. He commented apparently that he entered high school as a freshman and left as a freshman. He marries at 16, clearly not ready to support a wife. While Charlie is coming of age, the story of the times is highlighted in brilliant prose by Crouch.

Charlie's interest in music and his budding genius is clearly illustrated by Crouch through his examination of the music of Kansas City and the jazz club music battles. It was a time where you could be pulled off the bandstand if you couldn't swing with the best of them. So, if you wanted to be a major player, studious practice was necessary. And Charlie definitely wanted to be a player. And Crouch does a great job of making that clear

So what is frustrating? The book only deals with Charlie Parker's early years. In fact at its' conclusion Charlie is only 20 years old and has not yet made his mark on the world of music for which he would be remembered. I know there is another volume planned and I eagerly await its' publication.

Although there is a premature end to this volume it is a fine representation of the early Charlie Parker and I would recommend it to all those who love jazz music.
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