In honor of the 100th anniversary of Charlie “Bird” Parker’s birth, the life of the jazz icon will be told in the pages of an upcoming graphic novel to be released by Z2 Comics later this year.
During his short life, Bird changed the course of music. He was a pioneering composer and improviser who ushered in a new era of jazz and influenced subsequent generations of musicians, writers, and artists. Music industry legend Quincy Jones once said, “I believe that a hundred years from now, when people look back at the 20th century, they will view Bird, Miles, and Dizzy as our Mozart, Bach, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky.”
With the publisher’s highly anticipated Grateful Dead: Origins graphic novel due out in just over a month, Z2 switches genre and tempo to the story of perhaps one of the most overlooked times in the life of the late great father of bebop.
Chasin’ the Bird is named for Charlie Parker’s 1947 standard, and adapts one of the sunnier, but darker chapters in the life of Bird, beautifully told by Dave Chisholm and colored by DreamWorks Animation Director Peter Markowski. The book will be released in September and will include an exclusive flexi disc record featuring a recording from Parker’s time in Los Angeles. The deluxe limited edition will include a vinyl 45 with two tracks to be announced ahead of release. In conjunction with the graphic novel, Verve Records/UMe are currently working on a new album spanning Bird’s L.A. period that will be released in September as well.
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. This marked the beginning of a tumultuous two year-stint for Bird bumming around L.A., showing up at jam sessions, crashing on people’s couches, causing havoc in public places, and recording some of his most groundbreaking tracks, “A Night in Tunisia” and “Ornithology,” as well as “Relaxin’ At Camarillo,” inspired by the end of his time in SoCal at the Camarillo State Hospital. The novel explores Bird’s relationship with the characters and events he encountered during his time in L.A. including recording some of his signature songs with Dial Record founder Ross Russell, a brief but influential stay at the home of famed jazz photographer William Claxton, a party for the ages at the ranch home of artist Jirayr Zorthian, and others who found themselves in the orbit of the jazz genius.
“Charlie Parker is one of the most well-known figures in jazz, and to publish a chapter of his tragically short life story in comics is an honor,” says Z2 publisher Josh Frankel. “Jazz has always been a perfect complement to comic books, and certainly an inspiration to some of our greats as well. Robert Crumb would be proud.”
“I am so thrilled and incredibly honored to have gotten the opportunity to write and draw Chasin’ the Bird. My creative and professional life has basically consisted of a steady ping-pong between two obsessions of mine: music and comics,” says Dave Chisholm. “Needless to say, I’ve had the time of my life writing and drawing this book which has turned into an incredibly personal and meaningful project. I am beyond excited to share this with the world and help spread the word about Bird’s wonderful music.”
Chasin The Bird is being released during the centennial of Bird, dubbed Bird 100, as one of the many initiatives celebrating the extraordinary career of the trailblazing jazz icon, including exciting new music releases, a tribute tour, festivals and events, prestigious exhibitions, special partnerships, exclusive collectible art, and a myriad of independent appreciations and concerts. Chasin The Bird is available for preorder now from Z2’s website in both standard and deluxe editions.