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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 re-creates 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Dave on 11-04-14
A Multifaceted Gem
This book is excellent on so many levels: an erudite but very accessible history of pre-war America; a feels-like-you-are-there view of jazz bands battling for supremacy at the Savoy; a phenomenal account of what its like to hop a train in Kansas City and ride to New York City (and how that train ride is a metaphorical change...not just a geographical one)...and so much more.
This is volume 1 of what will be a 2 volume biography of jazz great Charlie Parker. Author Stanley Crouch does an amazing job of describing the social, political and musical context that influenced Parker. He makes the reader (or, as the case may be, listener) feel like they are there. The only other author I encountered who has done as good a job of providing absolutely fascinating context to help drive a biography is Robert Caro, author of the multi-volume biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The performance by Kevin Kenerly is superb and he is up to the task of performing a wide variety of material--whether it be describing the love story between Charlie Parker and his first wife Rebecca, the evolution of jazz, the sociopolitical condition of African Americans in the 20s and 30s, or dialog between a drug addict and an hobo.
This is much more than a niche book for jazz fans; it's highly recommended for all Audible members who enjoy engaging biographies supported by outstanding narration.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
By Arthur on 10-04-14
BeBop Prose; great book!
I actually had to wait a while after finishing Kansas City Lightning before I could sit down to write a review of it. This is not one of those name and date kind of history books.
Stanley Crouch's approach to his biography of Charlie Parker is much the same as Parker's approach to playing a jazz tune. He will begin a chapter with some general info about Parker's early life or career and then make a radical departure to something else. These could be anything from info about certain musicians, history of jazz, or the social mores of the time. These departures were all intelligent, articulate, informative and usually seemed to have nothing to do with Charlie Parker. Crouch then tied them up really nicely and got back to the subject; it is very much like a well crafted BeBop solo.
This book only covers the early years of Parker's life. I hope Mr. Crouch has a part two in the works.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful