Music: Bird Lives!

"The history of jazz," Miles Davis maintains, "can be told in four words: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker." Satchmo died at 71 on July 6, 1971, his name a household word; but 18 years have passed since Charlie ("Bird") Parker died, broke and burned out at 34. Except to jazz buffs, his name is barely remembered. No longer do such graffiti as "Bird lives!" appear on subway walls. Yet sooner or later Parker's genius confronts anyone who listens to jazz seriously.

He was jazz's most prolific improviser. Bird would blow 15 or 20 choruses on...

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