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Bud Powell: 'The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2'

The cover of The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. I


MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Before bebop, the most influential pianists were orchestral. Their voicings encompassed the full effects of a big jazz band. But the most influential pianist in mid-century jazz moved away from that approach. A.B. Spellman, you're going to tell us about the importance of Bud Powell.

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Yes, Murray. One could argue that Bud Powell influenced more pianists than any one else. More than any of his contemporaries, Powell adapted the innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to the piano.


SPELLMAN: Art Tatum, who was at his peak in the '40s, had exhausted those two-handed, top-to-bottom stride runs. So Powell, though influenced by Tatum, went into a different direction. He accompanied himself with spare chords in his left hand, while his right hand did an inside of dissection of those chords with elaborate runs.


SPELLMAN: A less fluid, but very provocative solo was on one of the early uses of Latin rhythms in bebop, "Un Poco Loco." Here, Bud uses some chords that sound like his mentor, Thelonious Monk.


HORWITZ: Bud Powell is joined on these CDs by some of the greatest musicians in jazz history, and most of them were kids at the time of these recordings. There's 19-year-old Sonny Rollins, the incomparable drummer Max Roach, the trumpeter Fats Navarro (who was heavily influenced by Bud Powell), and many others.

SPELLMAN: Be warned, there are a lot of alternate takes on these CDs, and SONY/Blue Note could have made a perfect good single CD with this material. But the alternates contain some great music and the solos are not overly repetitive. These takes are valuable when you consider that Bud Powell rarely recorded his compositions more than once.

HORWITZ: So The Amazing Bud Powell, Volumes I & II is essential music. It will be an indispensable part of your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And, I'm A.B. Spellman.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A. B. Spellman
Murray Horwitz
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