|Birth name||Earl Rudolph Powell|
|Born||(1924-09-27)September 27, 1924|
|Died||July 31, 1966(1966-07-31) (aged 41)|
|Labels||Roost, Blue Note, Mercury, Norgran, Clef, Verve|
|Associated acts||Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins|
His virtuosity led many to call him the Charlie Parker of the piano.
Powell was also a composer, and many jazz critics credit his works and his playing as having "greatly extended the range of jazz harmony."
Life and career
Powell's father was a stride pianist.
Powell started classical piano lessons at the age of five.
His teacher, hired by his father, was a West Indian man named Rawlins.
At ten, Powell showed interest in the swing music that could be heard all over the neighborhood.
The first jazz composition that he mastered was James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout".
Powell's older brother, William, played trumpet and violin, and by the age of 15 Powell was playing in William's band.
Powell heard Art Tatum on the radio and tried to match his technique.
Powell's younger brother, Richie Powell, was also a noted bebop pianist.
Early to mid-1940s
In his youth Powell listened to the adventurous performances at Uptown House, a venue near his home.
This was where Charlie Parker first appeared as a solo act when he briefly lived in New York.
Thelonious Monk played at Uptown House.
When Monk met Powell he introduced Powell to musicians who were starting to play bebop at Minton's Playhouse.
Monk was a resident pianist, and he presented Powell as his protégé.
Their mutual affection grew, and Monk became Powell's greatest mentor.
Powell eagerly experimented with Monk's idea.
Monk's composition "In Walked Bud" is a tribute to their time together in Harlem.
Powell was engaged in a series of dance bands, his incubation culminating in becoming the pianist for the swing orchestra of Cootie Williams.
In late 1943 he was offered the chance to appear at a nightclub with the quintet of Oscar Pettiford and Dizzy Gillespie, but Powell's mother decided he would continue with the more secure job with the popular Williams.
Powell was the pianist on a handful of Williams's recording dates in 1944.
The last included the first recording of Monk's "'Round Midnight".
His job with Williams was terminated in Philadelphia in January 1945.
After the band finished for the night, Powell wandered near Broad Street Station and was apprehended, drunk, by the private railroad police.
He was beaten by them and incarcerated briefly by the city police.
Ten days after his release, his headaches persisted and he was hospitalized at Bellevue, an observation ward, and then in a state psychiatric hospital sixty miles away.
He remained there for two and a half months.
Powell resumed playing in Manhattan after released.
Powell became known for his sight-reading and his skill at fast tempos.
The recordings were unreleased until 1949, when Roost Records bought the masters and released them on a series of 78 rpm records.
Musicologist Guthrie Ramsey wrote of the session that "Powell proves himself the equal of any of the other beboppers in technique, versatility, and feeling."
Charlie Parker chose Powell to be his pianist on a May 1947 quintet recording session with Miles Davis, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach; this was the only studio session in which Parker and Powell played together.
The Parker session aside, Powell performed on two other records and seldom appeared at nightclubs in 1947.
In November, he had an altercation with a customer at a bar in Harlem.
In the ensuing fight, Powell was hit over his eye with a bottle.
When the staff at Harlem Hospital found him incoherent and rambunctious, they sent him to Bellevue, which had a record of his previous confinements.
He was sent to Creedmoor State Hospital, where he spent eleven months.
Powell adjusted to being in the hospital, though in psychiatric interviews he expressed feelings of persecution founded in racism.
From February to April 1948, he received electroconvulsive therapy after an outburst which may have been prompted by learning from his girlfriend that she was pregnant with their child.
The electroconvulsive therapy was considered ineffective, so the doctors gave him a second series of treatments in May.
He was released in October 1948.
Solo and trio recordings (1949–1958)
The second Blue Note session in 1951 was a trio with Curley Russell and Max Roach and included "Parisian Thoroughfare" and "Un Poco Loco".
Powell's rivalry with Parker led to feuding and bitterness on the bandstand.
Contributing factors were Powell's worsening mental and physical health.
Powell recorded for Blue Note and Granz throughout the 1950s, interrupted by another stay in a mental hospital from late 1951 to early 1953 after being arrested for possession of marijuana.
He was released into the guardianship of Oscar Goodstein, owner of the Birdland nightclub.
A 1953 trio session for Blue Note with Duvivier and Taylor included Powell's composition "Glass Enclosure", inspired by his near-imprisonment in Goodstein's apartment.
After several more periods in the hospital, Powell moved to Paris in 1959 with Altevia "Buttercup" Edwards, whom he had met after an incarceration in 1954.
The couple moved into the Hotel La Louisiane.
She managed his finances and his medicine.
Powell continued to perform and record.
Last years (1964–1966)
In 1963, Powell contracted tuberculosis.
His performances during these years were adversely affected by his alcoholism.
His emotions became unbalanced, and he was hospitalized in New York after months of erratic behavior and self-neglect.
On July 31, 1966, he died of tuberculosis, malnutrition, and alcoholism.
Bud Powell was influenced primarily by Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum.
Improvisation and comping
His solos imitated the attack of horn players, contained frequent arpeggios, and utilized much chromaticism.
According to author Alan Morrison, "Powell freed the right hand for continuous linear exploration at the expense of developing the left."
Reception and influence
Miles Davis in his autobiography said of Powell: "[He] was one of the few musicians I knew who could play, write, and read all kinds of music."
"Bud was a genius piano player–the best there was of all the bebop piano players."
In 1986 Francis Paudras wrote a book about his friendship with Powell, translated into English in 1997 as Dance of the Infidels: A Portrait of Bud Powell.
In February 2012 a biography titled Wail: The Life of Bud Powell by Peter Pullman was released as an ebook.
Powell influenced countless younger musicians, especially pianists.
Bill Evans, who described Powell as his single greatest influence, paid the pianist a tribute in 1979: "If I had to choose one single musician for his artistic integrity, for the incomparable originality of his creation and the grandeur of his work, it would be Bud Powell.
He was in a class by himself".
Jazz pianist Bill Cunliffe said Powell was "the first pianist to take Charlie Parker's language and adapt it successfully to the piano."
This was, in part, due to his desire to see the pianist get the adulation usually reserved for the saxophonist or trumpeter.
The drummer Art Taylor, who is listed among the personnel on about a dozen Powell recordings, elicited comments concerning Powell from numerous musicians in his book of interviews, Notes and Tones.
Among the comments were these:
- Art Blakey: "I think there was a time when Bud Powell was playing more than Charlie Parker."
- Don Cherry: "Bud... could play the same thing differently each time."
- Kenny Clarke: "An exceptional musician."
- Erroll Garner: "Bud was the second greatest thing to Art Tatum... Bud was a genius on the piano."
- Hampton Hawes: "Bud Powell was the greatest be-bop piano player in the world. Nobody could phrase like him."
- Freddie Hubbard: "To me, they [Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie were true geniuses to create something that spontaneous."
- Elvin Jones: "I always had the impression that Bud had been hurt so much. He was like a very delicate piece of china. I think he was an extremely sensitive person, a very beautiful person. He was really nice, and I loved him. I thought he was a genius in what he was doing. His ideas about modern music were revolutionary. There are very few pianists even now who have approached the level of proficiency which Bud Powell attained and consistently maintained. He's one of the masters."
- Carmen McRae: "He was a phenomenal pianist, a cat whose potential never really got where it could have gotten to. I think our way of American life has a lot to do with it."
- Max Roach: "Bud Powell played a major part in my development."
- Sonny Rollins: "In my opinion, Bud was a genius just like Bird. They were untouchable as far as their musicianship was concerned. They could do no wrong in anything they did..."
- Randy Weston: "Without a doubt he is one of our leaders."
- Tony Williams: "I wish I had been born earlier because of that whole period with Bud and Bird."
Main article: Bud Powell discography
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bud Powell.