Bud Powell
February 25, 2012 8:50 PM   Subscribe

No musician of Bud Powell’s era had such capacity for improvisatory excellence and was so ready to unleash it, instantly, in such concentrated form onstage.

“They get away with murder,” [bassist Curly] Russell said of such geniuses. “When you see the beautiful side of them, and what they can produce, musically, you have to go along with them.” When Powell dug in at the keyboard and poured out seamless yet intricate solos, Russell said: “[A]ll was forgiven. It had to be. If you played music or you loved music—all is forgiven.”

A good introduction is Verve's aptly titled Jazz Giant - which includes this dazzling performance of "Get Happy".
posted by Trurl (8 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
". . . rarely does Monk hang a gun on the wall in the first chorus of a piece without firing it at some later point, although not, perhaps, in the direction expected"

That Times piece is great.
posted by Camofrog at 9:13 PM on February 25, 2012

What a colossus Bud Powell is. What a titanic hero of the keyboard, and an inspiration. All of his music makes me very happy, but this rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is still my very favorite. I think I told the story behind Monk's song "In Walked Bud" already here at some point, so I'll just say this time around that Bud was a great man, too, as beset as his life was with difficulties.
posted by koeselitz at 9:36 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the greats.
posted by bardic at 9:38 PM on February 25, 2012

The Times piece comparing Monk to Powell is excellent. The rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" belies this generalization, but to most of us Monk's supremely eccentric playing exemplifies everything we love about jazz improvisation. (Of course, his compositions manifest his out-of-the-box musical thinking and give his spontaneity free reign.)

But Powell's often predictable run of syncopated eighth note improvisations have an incredible magic: they often sound like structured compositions labored over for weeks. The pure melodic genius of his apparently casual riffs are something else. Magic? Yes. In a sense.
posted by kozad at 10:48 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this post.
posted by AppleSeed at 5:30 AM on February 26, 2012

I think I told the story behind Monk's song "In Walked Bud" already here at some point

That's here, for anyone like me who is curious.
posted by flug at 6:38 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it sounds predictable, it's because people have been copying it for 50 years
posted by thelonius at 7:38 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Great post. After Jelly Roll and Tatum, there's simply Bud Powell. He stands at the top of the heap, until Bill Evans. But without Bud, there IS no Bill or Chick or Herbie or Jarrett. He was, and is colossal.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2012

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