Still full of punch
From the Spring 2003 issue.
By Bud Powell
Pablo Records: 2002
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The record companies are mining the vaults, bringing up forgotten and/or previously unissued material from some of the giants of jazz. Some of it should never have seen the light of day; but other stuff like this "Paris Sessions" CD are necessary additions to the legacies of the greats.
The classic sides cut by pianist Bud Powell one of the founding fathers of bebop have all been issued on CD: his trio work with drummer Max Roach and bassist Ray Brown, the sides with trumpeter Fats Navarro and sax man Sonny Rollins all from the late 1940s, early '50s. All of this has long been available. Classics, from one of the greatest of innovators.
Bud Powell's powers declined after the mid-'50s, though, due in part to "mental problems," difficulties compounded by the piano man's legendary tete ta tete resulting in his ending up on the wrong end of a billy club with a couple of stupidly brutal cops; a beating that did physical damage to the neurology of an already tenuous personality.
In spite of his decline personally, musically Powell enjoyed something of a recording renaissance in Paris in the late '50s/early '60s, when Frenchman Francis Paudras took the expatriate pianist under his wing. And that's where "Paris Sessions" comes in.
This is the late '50s/early '60s, and isn't Powell at his late '40s peak, when he was full of fire and innovation but these are fine efforts that showcase the man in a looser atmosphere than that of his heyday. Freed from the constraints of the three minute-and-change limits of the 78 RPM record, Powell soars. Indeed, the first six cuts tunes by Ellington, or associated with him, or dedicated to the Duke are hugely successful outings in the looser atmosphere, due to the fluidity the expanded time frame lends to the pianist's approach. Great stuff; sort of free-flung, almost classic.
Speaking of classics: after the initial six tunes, there's "Taking a Chance on Love" with tenor sax man Zoot Sims sounding happily ragged and relaxed blowing around Bud's crisp percussion the highlight of the disc for me. And then Dizzy Gillespie sits in on "How High the Moon," sharp on the descending scale as always; and tenor man Johnny Griffin moans on an after-hours take on the classic "Body and Soul."
Maybe it's not Powell at his peak; but he sounds great relaxed and assured, loose and very focused on this thing called jazz. Powell fans will have to have this one; and with the Ellington tinge and Dizzy and Zoot and Johnny it would be a fine introduction to jazz.
Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.