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Ornithology, Murakami-style

Bird Bossa

Supernatural visitations are a regular feature of the novels and short stories of Haruki Murakami, many of which also benefit from a well chosen musical soundtrack. He combines the two in an unusually intimate way in a new short story titled “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova”, published in the latest edition of Granta, the literary quarterly.

It begins with a student exercise in which the tale’s protagonist writes a review of an imaginary album, recorded in 1963, in which Charlie Parker — who has not, after all, died in 1955 — is accompanied by the piano of Antonio Carlos Jobim, the bass of Jimmy Garrison and the drums of Roy Haynes. The repertoire consists of well known Jobim tunes, including “Insensatez” and “Chega de Saudade”, and bossafied versions of a couple of Bird’s own classics, for which Hank Jones replaces the Brazilian at the keyboard.

The essay has been long forgotten when, after many years, its writer wanders into a small New York record store and, while browsing the racks, comes across what appears to be a bootleg version of the very album created by his own imagination. Later, while pondering on this mystery, he receives a visit from Parker himself.

Not wanting to spoil the reader’s pleasure, I’ll add only that it’s a delightful invention which reaffirms Murakami’s deep love of music — as lightly worn as ever, even when it provides the essence of the story. And the accompanying illustration, by Jon Gray, is perfect.

* Granta 148, a summer fiction special, is out now.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mark Kidel #

    Thank you, Richard for flagging this! You man of impeccable taste. I love Murakami and always relish his references to music.
    By the way, one of my favourite contemporary architects, Peter Zumthor, is an immense Monk and Coltrane, and references them as sources of inspiration. It is paradoxical as his work is really sripped down. It is probably its incredible oiriginality and refusal to play to the gallery which resonates with those particular two musicians.

    August 12, 2019
    • GuitarSlinger #

      FYI ; Zumthor ( my absolute favorite contemporary architect ) is also a huge ECM devotee as well as a well informed classical ( including contemporary ) music fan . If you ever get the opportunity and have the means to do so rent one of his two incredible ‘ vacation ‘ homes in CH for a spell . You’ll be glad you did 😎

      August 13, 2019
  2. Vitor Fragoso #

    Bird, Brazil, que beleza!

    August 12, 2019
  3. Paul Donovan #

    Do we have copies of this edition of Grants?

    Paul Donovan
    M: +61 407244390

    August 12, 2019
  4. Paul Donovan #

    Sorry about that misdirected email. Pls ignore

    Paul Donovan
    M: +61 407244390

    August 12, 2019
  5. John Dilworth #

    Once again, grateful thanks. Will seek this out.

    August 13, 2019
  6. GuitarSlinger #

    Murakami never fails to surprise both with the quality of his writing as well as the depth of his musical knowledge and its inclusion into every one of his surrealistic books and stories . Too bad Granta is all but unavailable here in the states … sigh …….

    FYI; For those who do not know Murakami owned a prominent jazz club well before he was ever know for his books and is extremely well versed in both classical ( re; his book with Seiji Ozawa ; ” Absolutely on Music ” ) jazz and classic rock

    August 13, 2019

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