Dynamic Duo: Bird & Diz by Gary Golio
BIRD AND DIZ ARE FRIENDS.
THEY DON'T HAVE TO SAY MUCH.
A NOD OR A LOOK WILL DO.
THEY TAKE TURNS,
TOSSING NOTES BACK AND FORTH,
Watching great jazz players work together is like nothing else, each taking, each giving, coming together, moving alone to come up with something novel but still in harmony with the other.
Dizzy Gillespie, trumpeter, and Charlie (Bird) Parker, saxophonist, were masters in their own right, but their duets together were... something else. Darting through dual passages in tight harmony, or shooting off on tangents and then tossing the musical ball back to the other, it was a sonic pas de deux that has become musical legend.
Gary Golio's Bird & Diz (Candlewick Press, 2015) shows the author, writer of music biographies of eclectic styles, and award-winning artist Ed Young collaborating, jazz-style, in a book which parallels the playing of musical partners Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Diz and Bird. An example of the recent blooming of the curiously termed, avant garde "toy and movable book genre," the book's design, echoing the flow of the music as the two stars "trade fours," pursuing each other's riffs through the continuous unfolding of the book's "pages" folded into one long loop, mirrors the making of the music between the two on their song, "Salt Peanuts," as they challenge and support each other's notes. It's the classic jazz "chase!"
DIZ POINTS HIS TRUMPET AND SHOOTS OUT FIREWORKS.
TAG, BIRD--YOU'RE IT!
I DARE YOU, BIRDMAN!
And Bird takes off.
BIRD DOESN'T BLINK--
HIS HEAD'S IN THE CLOUDS,
BEEPING AND BOPPING...
Ed Young's flowing illustrations, Dizzy's musical voice in pink and orange, Bird's in blue and green, swirl across the pages, sprawling across the text all a-skoodley, until the two bump fists and shoulders in their own harmonious coda. Text and artwork are one as well, with the feel of bebop jazz well rendered in a visual medium. Horn Book's reviewer sums it up: "An expressionistic story of a "be-bop-a-skoodley" friendship comes together in the juxtaposition of a series of opposites—rendering and abstraction, saturation and resistance, darkness and light—reflecting the special partnership of two distinct musical legends...."
Young artists will want to follow Golio's urging: "Now pick up your crayons and draw!" like Ed Young, and the author offers links to music to inspire--Diz and Bird's "Salt Peanuts" and album "Diz & Bird." Hear the music here.
In a week when loyal fans gather to observe the (actual) birthday of Louis Armstrong and the death of Bix Beiderbecke, two creators, black and white, of American jazz who loved and respected each other deeply, it's good to celebrate the partnership playing of Dizzy and Bird, who despite setting forth in the Jim Crowe world of the 1940s and 1950s, nevertheless carried forth that music which exults in the freedom to collaborate and create together.