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Birditis

Ian Penman: The Obsession with Charlie Parker

23 January 2014
Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker 
by Gary Giddins.
Minnesota, revised edition, 195 pp., £15, October 2013, 978 0 8166 9041 1
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Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker 
by Stanley Crouch.
Harper, 365 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 06 200559 5
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Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker 
by Chuck Haddix.
Illinois, 188 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 252 03791 7
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... There is a shocking paparazzo pic from 1954 of Parker exiting a police van, entering Bellevue public hospital: filthy suit, shirt awry, trousers ridden up to his mottled knees. In Celebrating Bird, GaryGiddins includes three photos I’d never seen before, taken just before Parker’s death. (Frustratingly, Giddins supplies no background context.) In one, Parker turns his back to the camera and ...

Her Haunted Heart

John Lahr: Billie Holiday

20 December 2018
Lady Sings the Blues 
by Billie Holiday.
Penguin, 179 pp., £9.99, November 2018, 978 0 241 35129 1
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... and refreshed. ‘Ooo – ooo – ooo,’ she crooned, putting teasing vigorish on the vowels. ‘What a lil’ moonlight can doo – ooo-ooo.’ ‘Her voice is her story,’ the jazz critic GaryGiddins said of Holiday’s melancholy majesty. Wary and solitary in life (‘I don’t make friends easily’), on stage she was unabashed about opening her haunted heart. ‘Good morning heartache/Here we ...

My Heroin Christmas

Terry Castle: Art Pepper and Me

18 December 2003
... shame. True, he was Orphic and amoral and narcissistic – prone to a pervasive, mad, jazzy self-servicing. (In his introduction to the 1994 paperback reissue of Straight Life, the jazz critic GaryGiddins warns that it is often hard to admire Pepper: ‘he whines, justifies, patronises and vilifies’ and goes ‘overboard . . . with intimate revelations’.) But along with the spleen and pussy lore ...

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