CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

Charlie Parker Graphic Novel on the Way

Chasin’ the Bird, due out in September for the bop pioneer’s centennial, tells the story of his mid-1940s California stay

Cover of Chasin' the Bird: Charlie Parker in California
Cover of Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California

Recent years have seen a crush of jazz centennials—in particular, those of the first generation of bebop innovators. Arguably the most important of these will come later this year on August 29, the 100th anniversary of alto saxophonist Charlie Parker’s birth, and Z2 Comics is celebrating it with the September publication of Chasin’ the Bird: Charlie Parker in California, a graphic novel by jazz trumpeter and comic artist/writer Dave Chisholm, whose previous credits in this field include 2017’s acclaimed Instrumental.

Created in collaboration with colorist Peter Markowski, Chasin’ the Bird tells the story of Parker’s eventful, even calamitous 16-month stay on the West Coast from December 1945 to April 1947. What had been intended as a two-month residency in Hollywood with Dizzy Gillespie’s band was extended when Parker sold his return train ticket to buy heroin. The California stint culminated in July of 1946 with his infamous “Lover Man” recording session, followed by a hotel fire, jail time, and a commitment to Camarillo State Hospital to recover from his addictions.

The silver lining of this tumultuous period was that it coincided with Parker’s signing a contract with Ross Russell’s newly founded Dial Records. Parker would make some of his most celebrated recordings for that label, including “Yardbird Suite,” “Ornithology,” and “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” (the last of these made just after his release from the titular hospital).

When Chasin’ the Bird is published in September, it will include a flexidisc of a recording from Parker’s time in Los Angeles. A special limited edition of the graphic novel will feature a vinyl 45 with two as-yet-unannounced tracks.

Chasin’ the Bird is available for pre-order through Z2 Comics’ website.