The World According to Keitho

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Bud Powell: The greatest.

Posted by keithosaunders on February 24, 2016

I had an interesting conversation with a sax player at my gig last night.  He said that years ago he had gone to see Stan Getz and that between tunes Getz began talking about the great pianist, Bud Powell.  He asserted that a strong case could be made that Powell could be considered the most important jazz musician of all time.

Even I, who considers Powell my most important influence was slightly taken aback by this statement.  Charlie Parker looms as an enormous presence in jazz, and although we can’t equate the harmonic and rhythmic revolution that was bebop with one man, it is generally accepted that Bird, with his prodigious technique and dense harmonic lines was the prime catalyst.

The thing is that if you agree that Bud was every bit the harmonic equal of Bird, it becomes not so much a question of who played better, but who was the first to invent the language.  We may never know this but one thing Getz pointed out which I am in complete agreement on is that Bud wrote some of the most forward-thinking songs of all time.

Of course Bird wrote great songs as well, most of which we study and play to this day.  Yardbird Suite, Ornithology, Scrapple From the Apple are  the first three that come to mind but I could rattle off another two dozen if I had to.

While Bird’s songs defined and codified an era, Bud’s compositions looked towards the future.  Un Poco Loco was one of the first songs to combine Afro-Cuban rhythms with the new sound of bebop — its extended montuno solo section presaged modal music by a good ten years.  Dance of the Infidels is an altered 12 bar blues with a herky-jerky melody that somehow manages to appear fluid.  Check out its whole tone intro.  Bud wrote haunting ballads such as Dusk in Sandi, and his brilliant reworkings of standards such as Autumn in New York and Everything Happens to Me asserted an infectiously personal and passionate voice.

Bud Powell remains a giant among giants.

Dance of the Infidels

Dusk in Sandi

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4 Responses to “Bud Powell: The greatest.”

  1. This goes great with my morning coffee….thanks for sharing. What a wonderful way to start a day.

  2. txtalley said

    Listening to Bud Powell now. Very interesting thought also. Gives me a reason to sit and compare. Nice write up

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