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Extended Audio Sample Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, by Stanley Crouch Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Stanley Crouch Narrator: Kevin Kenerly Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker is the first installment in the long-awaited portrait of one of the most talented and influential musicians of the twentieth century, from Stanley Crouch, one of the foremost authorities on jazz and culture in America.

Throughout his life, Charlie Parker personified the tortured American artist: a revolutionary performer who used his alto saxophone to create a new music known as bebop even as he wrestled with a drug addiction that would lead to his death at the age of thirty-four. Drawing on interviews with peers, collaborators, and family members, Kansas City Lightning re-creates Parker’s Depression-era childhood; his early days navigating the Kansas City nightlife, inspired by lions like Lester Young and Count Basie; and on to New York, where he began to transcend the music he had mastered. Crouch reveals an ambitious young man torn between music and drugs, between his domineering mother and his impressionable young wife, whose teenage romance with Charlie lies at the bittersweet heart of this story.

With the wisdom of a jazz scholar, the cultural insights of an acclaimed social critic, and the narrative skill of a literary novelist, Stanley Crouch illuminates this American master as never before.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Kansas City Lightning succeeds as few biographies of jazz musicians have…This book is a magnificent achievement; I could hardly put it down.”

    Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

  • “It takes a lifetime of passionate engagement to write with the intensity and depth of Stanley Crouch…The results are insightful, profound, and wholly original…This a must-read, not just for jazz fans, but for anyone interested in American possibilities.”

    Wynton Marsalis

  • “A portrait of the young Charlie Parker with a degree of vivid detail never before approached…[Kansas City Lightning is] a deft, virtuosic panorama of early jazz…This is a mind-opening, and mind-filling, book.”

    Tom Piazza

  • “This is a memorable book…Stanley Crouch takes us deep into places most of us can only imagine—including into the heart of the mysterious split-second alchemy that takes place nightly on the bandstand.”

    Geoffrey C. Ward, National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author

  • “[A] riveting, long-awaited book…Here is Bird making his watershed discoveries before he fired his own lightning bolts.”

    Gary Giddins, National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author

  • “The soul of Stanley Crouch joins the soul of the legendary jazz legend…Crouch re-creates ‘the Bird’ with his writer’s talents at their peak and the result is magical.”

    Huffington Post

  • “It’s a book about a jazz hero written in a heroic style…a bebop Beowulf.”

    New York Times

  • “Award-winning Crouch takes a deep look at [Parker’s] rich life.”

    Denver Post

  • “Social and cultural critic, columnist, and MacArthur Genius Crouch offers a mix of impressionist strokes, historical facts, and context in his masterful Charlie Parker bio.”

    New York Post

  • “Meticulous and steeped in local lore…Feel[s] as urgent as a blast from Parker’s saxophone.”

    Kansas City Star

  • “Fans of Mr. Crouch have been waiting so long for him to complete this volume, which is the first installment in a two-part series, that it has taken on a kind of mythic status. It lives up to its aura.”

    New York Observer

  • “[Crouch] crafts lush scenes and crackling music writing…Jazz fans will want to read this book…This is a thorough and entertaining account of one of the greatest rises—and the prelude to one of the greatest falls—in jazz history.”


  • “Stanley Crouch has a store of fresh information for you in his new book about Charlie Parker, the genius of American music universally known as Bird, and invaluable insights to offer into the meaning of Parker’s achievement. It is imperative that you come into possession of this material.”

    Daily Beast

  • “Crouch captures with novelistic verve the excitement of [the] period…[Charlie Parker] has daunted even, perhaps especially, awestruck biographers. Crouch’s eyes are wide open, and he lends his considerable talents to a jazz biography that ranks with the very best.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “With the straight-ahead timing and the ethereal blowing of a great jazzman, Crouch delivers a scorching set in this first of two volumes of his biography of Charlie Yardbird Parker, capturing the downbeats and the up-tempo moments of the great saxophonist’s life and music.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Paints a vivid picture of not just Parker’s life but also the rise of this mostly African American art form…One would be hard-pressed to find a more solid narrator than Kevin Kenerly—his voice jumps and dances with all the mad rhythm of a Bird solo, but it’s never breathlessly histrionic. It’s a great treatment of a great book, which begs the question—when’s the next volume coming out?”


  • “Stanley Crouch’s work is perhaps the most important writing on jazz today…This outstanding book is food for the soul for any serious listener of jazz music.”

    Madhav Chari, jazz pianist

  • “Crouch…is uniquely qualified to guide readers on this tour…A story rich in musical history and poignant with dramatic irony.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • An AudioFile Best Audiobook of the Year for 2014
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About the Author

Stanley Crouch has been writing about jazz music and the American experience for more than forty years. He has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, for his essay collections Notes of a Hanging Judge and The All-American Skin Game. His other books include Always in Pursuit, The Artificial White Man, and the acclaimed novel Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome. Since 1987 he has served on and off as the artistic consultant for jazz programming at Lincoln Center and is a founder of the jazz department known as Jazz at Lincoln Center. The president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, he is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a regular columnist for the New York Daily News.