Bud Powell - Piano

1924-1966

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The ultimate bop-piano genius Earl "Bud" Powell helped to bring jazz piano into the modern age. He was a true innovator with a fluid style and a technical facility and creativity that overshadowed his troubled life and personal inconsistency. Born Sept. 27, 1924, in New York City, Powell studied European classical forms as a child. His close circle of friends included Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Nichols and he became part of the bop scene in the mid 40s, working with Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro and various others. In 1945 he was hospitalised, reportedly the result of a brutal beating suffered at the hands of members of the Philadelphia police force. The remainder of his life was marred by numerous hospitalisations, bouts of depression, electro-shock therapy and the use of tranquillizers and alcohol. All this had a profound influence on his personality and he was known for having great difficulty dealing with some fellow musicians. However it did not stop Powell from making a series of marvellous recordings for the Blue Note, Roost and Verve labels. Musically his best period was the years between 1950 and 1953. Considering the fact that he was constantly under sedation, prescribed by his doctors and his heavy drinking pattern, it is a miracle that his work from this period is listenable. In fact he displayed a melodic, rhythmic and harmonic imagination and technical facility the equal of Parker's plus an emotional intensity, which, at its fiercest, was almost frightening. He took part in the famous 1953 Massey Hall Concert, along with Parker, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie, but by 1954 his extreme facility had withered. Powell suffered greatly from the death of his younger brother Ritchie, who died in the same car crash in which Clifford Brown lost his life. He spent 1959-'64 in Europe, taking up residence in Paris, after which he returned to the United States for a brief concert tour. He stayed in New York, disappeared in early 1965 and after having been found living on the street, he was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis. He died July 31, 1966. Some of Powell's compositions remain jazz standards to this day "Un Poco Loco," "Hallucinations" "Glass Enclosure". Bud Powell's life story served as the basis for the 1986 Bertrand Tavernier movie Round Midnight, in which Dexter Gordon played the main character. But the role also has elements of the lives of Lester Young and Dexter Gordon himself woven into it.
Recommended recordings:
Best of Bud Powell Blue Note 93204
Bud Plays Bird Blue Note 37137
The Amazing Bud Powell Vol.1 Blue Note 81503
The Amazing Bud Powell Vol.2 Blue Note 81504
Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings Blue Note 30083
The Scene Changes Blue Note 46529
Time Waits Blue Note 21227
Jazz at Masey Hall OJC 111-4
Bouncing with Bud Delmark 406
In Paris (Live) WAE/ Warner Bros
The Genius of Modern Piano Giants of Jazz
Round Midnight at the Blue Note Dreyfuss
Sonny Stitt, J.J. Johnson & Bud Powell OJC 009-2
The Best of Bud Powell on Verve Verve 521-669
 
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