Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

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by Stanley Crouch
     
 

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Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker is the first installment in the long-awaited portrait of one of the most talented and influential musicians of the twentieth century, from Stanley Crouch, one of the foremost authorities on jazz and culture in America.

Throughout his life, Charlie Parker personified the tortured American

Overview

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker is the first installment in the long-awaited portrait of one of the most talented and influential musicians of the twentieth century, from Stanley Crouch, one of the foremost authorities on jazz and culture in America.

Throughout his life, Charlie Parker personified the tortured American artist: a revolutionary performer who used his alto saxophone to create a new music known as bebop even as he wrestled with a drug addiction that would lead to his death at the age of thirty-four.

Drawing on interviews with peers, collaborators, and family members, Kansas City Lightning recreates Parker’s Depression-era childhood; his early days navigating the Kansas City nightlife, inspired by lions like Lester Young and Count Basie; and on to New York, where he began to transcend the music he had mastered. Crouch reveals an ambitious young man torn between music and drugs, between his domineering mother and his impressionable young wife, whose teenage romance with Charlie lies at the bittersweet heart of this story.

With the wisdom of a jazz scholar, the cultural insights of an acclaimed social critic, and the narrative skill of a literary novelist, Stanley Crouch illuminates this American master as never before.

Editorial Reviews

barnesandnoble.com
“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.”
Boston Globe
“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.”
Chicago Tribune
“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.”
Jazz Times
“A riveting read. . . Crouch, through years of research, has done an exemplary job.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“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.”
San Jose Mercury News
“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.”
New York Times
“A book about a jazz hero written in a heroic style. . . a bebop Beowulf.”
Huffington Post
“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.”
New York Observer
“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.”
Flavorwire
“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.”
Jazz History Online
“The rich details make Parker’s story come alive.”
Buffalo News
“[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.”
New York Review of Books
“’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.”
Wall Street Journal
“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.”
The New Yorker
“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.”
Dallas Morning News
“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.”
Los Angeles Magazine
“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.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Kansas City Lightning succeeds as few biographies of jazz musicians have. . . This book is a magnificent achievement; I could hardly put it down.”
Wynton Marsalis
“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.”
starred review Booklist
“A jazz biography that ranks with the very best.”
Geoffrey C. Ward
“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.”
Gary Giddins
“[A] riveting, long-awaited book . . . Here is Bird making his watershed discoveries before he fired his own lightning bolts.”
Tom Piazza
“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.”
Madhav Chari
“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.”
Shelf Awareness
“This first volume in the epic biography of Charlie Parker showcases Stanley Crouch’s encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history and effusive prose.”
Eugene Holley
Kansas City Lightning paints a profound portrait of a great American musician, but also features Crouch operating at the top of his game.”
Daily Beast
“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…”
Denver Post
“Award-winning Crouch takes a deep look at [Parker’s] rich life.”
New York 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.”
Kansas City Star
“Meticulous and steeped in local lore. . . Feel[s] as urgent as a blast from Parker’s saxophone.”
NPR.org
“[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.”
David Hajdu
“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.”
Named One of the Best Books of the Year NPR
“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.”
Washington Post
“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.”
Toronto Globe and Mail
“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.”
Popmatters.com
“[A] meticulous biography of Parker. . . . In Crouch’s passages, he very nearly invents a new language for discussing jazz.”
The Millions
“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.”
Jeff Sultanof
“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.”
The New York Times - Dwight Garner
Kansas City Lightning is all about polyrhythmic cadences and percussive thumps. It's a book about a jazz hero written in a heroic style; it's a tall tale, a bebop Beowulf…a 365-page riff on Charlie Parker, on America in the first half of the 20th century and on black intellect and feeling…To settle in and listen to Mr. Crouch on Parker's sound is to send you racing to your CD collection or Spotify app.
The New York Times Book Review - David Hajdu
…[a] judicious, strategically crafted new book about Charlie Parker…Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker is, like the music made by its subject in his abbreviated life, free-flowing and severe, volatile, expansive, allusive and indulgent. 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…
Publishers Weekly
With the straight-ahead timing and the ethereal blowing of a great jazzman, Crouch delivers a scorching set in this first of two volumes of his biography of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, capturing the downbeats and the up-tempo moments of the great saxophonist’s life and music. Drawing on interviews with numerous friends, fellow musicians, and family members, Crouch traces Parker’s life from his earliest days in Kansas City, Mo., his early romance and eventual marriage to Rebecca Ruffin, and his heroin addiction to his involvement with his mentors Lester Young and Buster Smith. Crouch brings to life the swinging backdrop against which Parker honed his craft: “Kansas City was becoming a kind of kind of experimental laboratory, where the collective possibilities of American rhythm were being refined and expanded on a nightly basis.” Parker eventually decides that Kansas City isn’t big enough for him, and he rides the rails to Chicago and New York, ending up on Buster Smith’s doorstep, eager to absorb all the lessons the big city has to teach him. “By now, he had long since mastered the physical challenges of playing... and become preoccupied with the coordination of mind and muscle necessary to make his own way.” As Crouch reminds us, however, “Charlie Parker, no matter how highly talented, was not greater than his idiom. But his work helped to lead the art form to its most penetrating achievement.” (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-08-15
A veteran cultural critic and jazz historian tells the simultaneous stories of the rise of jazz and the emergence of one of its brightest comets, Charlie Parker (1920–1955). Crouch (Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz, 2006, etc.), whose journalism has appeared in just about every major venue and whose books have earned widespread critical appreciation, is uniquely qualified to guide readers on this tour. He begins in Des Moines, Iowa, where Parker, 21, was touring with the Jay McShann Orchestra. Here, we get an early hint of troubles to come when Crouch notes that Parker's "disappearing acts were his specialty." Hard drugs would limit Parker's ascension and eventually bring him down. But Crouch's agenda comprises not just the story of the early Parker. He tells the tales of towns (New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago, New York), of ragtime and jazz legends (Scott Joplin, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum and others of lesser name but considerable significance), and of families and friends. We see Parker's impecunious struggles to learn his instrument (alto sax), his repeated visits to the pawn shop (morphine was not free), his experiences of having to borrow other players' instruments, his gift as a musician, his ferocious work ethic (striving to find his own sound) and his transformation into a dweller of the night. We learn, as well, about his youthful love affair that eventually became his first marriage. He became a father and then left his family to pursue his dreams, which no longer included them. Crouch takes us with Parker to Chicago and then to New York City, where he was just about to make it when the story stops. Crouch is a phrasemaker, and the text is chockablock with memorable lines. A friend's death "was like drinking a cup of blues made of razor blades." A story rich in musical history and poignant with dramatic irony.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062005618
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/21/2014
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
1,071,473
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Crouch has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, for his essay collections Notes of a Hanging Judge and The All-American Skin Game. His other books include Always in Pursuit, The Artificial White Man, and the acclaimed novel Don't the Moon Look Lonesome. He has served on and off as the artistic consultant for jazz programming at Lincoln Center, is the president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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