Gary Giddin’s Celebrating Bird – The Triumph of Charlie Parker takes a more traditional approach and saddles the bio with a narrative it probably doesn’t need, considering that the film brims with interesting interviews of Parker’s contemporaries and family. By not identifying these interviewees, Giddin often takes a slightly slapdash approach that can be annoying, but there are still both musical joys and fascinating stories aplenty. The lineup for Parker’s very first recording session, which included both Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, is ridiculous in its array of talent, and the details of Parker’s lifelong struggles with heroin addiction are very engrossing. Perhaps most intriguing of all is the fact that Parker only ever achieved cult status for most of his career, leaving it up to what were almost certainly the first ever bootleggers, who recorded Parker’s shows, to provide proof of his legacy. This unique biography is recommended despite its few flaws.
This originally aired as part of the PBS Masters of American Music series.