Comics History

Read Chasin’ the Bird

Read Chasin’ the Bird by Dave Chisholm

The graphic novel tells the story of Bird’s time in L.A. starting in December 1945, where Bird and Dizzy Gillespie brought frenetic sounds of bebop from the East Coast jazz underground to the West Coast for a two-month residency at Billy Berg’s Hollywood jazz club.

An unflinching, loving look at someone’s hero, clearly written by someone who deeply admires Charlie Parker as a musician. This gives Bird’s demons the weight they deserve and doesn’t excuse them, while also not dismissing his contributions to jazz and music and defining him solely by his failings. Told in short stories from the perspectives of several people who knew or met Bird during his time in California, each chapter illustrated in a different style with unique type, each story exposing another piece of what the truth may be. As an alto sax player whose first CD purchase was a crappy Bird and Diz set, who had a book transposing Bird’s recordings so I could practice playing his solos, Charlie Parker was a musician I looked up to even while knowing he struggled with addiction and died young. I thought this comic was sensitive to the complexity of his life and the racist environment he lived in.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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