Bird & Diz by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young
Text and art find a perfect pairing between two hard covers that stretch out to reveal a 10-foot, double-sided spread of popping colors, swirly lines, and infectious energy. Captured within is the story of two friends “who play together just like kids.” They joyously romp through their music, with Diz on his trumpet, and Bird on his saxophone – “tossing notes back and forth like jugglers.”
The two boisterous virtuosos are none other than incomparable legends Charlie “Bird” Parker and John “Dizzy” Gillespie, who “push[ed] each other to make a new kind of music.” It’s called bebop, with “lots of notes, endless surprises, taking chances, making changes. It’s fall on your face or fly.” In Gary Golio and Ed Young’s stupendous collaboration, Bird & Diz soars.
Golio, whose previous literary musical productions include JIMI: Sounds Like a Rainbow – A Story of Young Jimi Hendrix and Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey, enhances his lyrics here with an “Afterword” that provides historical context to Bird and Dizzy’s accomplishments: “Bebop changed the way people all over the world thought about music, especially because it was truly American music, in the tradition of jazz and blues,” Golio explains. “Bird and Diz were also black men, whose leadership in this new style of music brought them importance and respect at a time when there was widespread discrimination and racism.” Bird and Diz were innovators and heroes both.
Golio has undoubtedly found an ideal accompanist in the mega-award-winning Young, whose phenomenal art here seems like a magical synesthetic portal. [For people with certain types of synesthesia, sound triggers an association of colors.] If we were all privy to such sensory privilege, hearing Bird and Diz “bop to the beat” might look just like Young’s infinitely masterful compositions of vibrant movement. “Be-bop-a-skookley Doo-wa!” never looked this right.