Bird Lives Reviews


"Inspired by great affection and dedication, Bird Lives! provides a vivid and accurate picture not only of the saxophonist-composer as artist and human being but of his zeitgeist and the musical/social setting that produced him. Parker was an immensely complex personality; saint and satyr, loving father and footloose vagabond, with a limitless appetite for sex, music, food, pills, heroin, liquor, life. A man of vast influence, the most admired and imitated creator of the mid-1940s bop revolution, he was forced to work in dives, reduced to bumming dollars when he should have been respected as a reigning virtuoso. A sensitive, penetrating portrait."
- Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

"Although many books have been written about individual jazz musicians, up to now there has been no full-scale biography of any of them which can stand with first-class biographies in other fields. In this book, Bird does indeed live-in all his volcanic complexity." 
- Nat Hentoff

"One of the very few jazz books that deserve to be called literature . . . perhaps the finest writing on jazz to be found anywhere. . . . Russell knows a lot about music, has a novelist's eye for detail and a phonographic ear for jazz speech, and he swings a clean sports reporter's style. He has poured these gifts into what must be the most exhaustively researched biography on a jazz musician ever published and miraculously catches the feel of a jazz performance, that impossible fusion of spontaneous freedom and total discipline. Those aware of Parker's genius cannot do without this book." 
- Grover Sales, Saturday Review

"The best biography of any jazz musician that we have, Bird Lives! will stand for a long time as a major source of information and illumination not only of the great musician with whom it deals but of the entire jazz life in this society." 
- Ralph Gleason

"Ross Russell has salvaged history from the fog of legend and the ruins of gossip; and everyone whose bones can still feel the sound of Parker alive and whose heart is not yet healed of the sight of him dead, ought to be grateful to have him brought back here with the candor, honor, and style worthy of him. As biography, this seems to me a model of scholarship; as a memoir, I can imagine nothing that would better combine the pleasures and pains of association with a genius; and as the evocation of a lost, doomed yet glorious world I haven't often enough found its better." 
- Murray Kempton