Catalog number: Blue Note 4009 – Previous | Next
Bud Powell (p), Paul Chambers (b), Art Taylor (d)
Cover photo: Francis Wolff
Design: Reid Miles
Liner notes: Leonard Feather
Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, December 29, 1958
Originally released 1959
Date first heard: Week of January 25, 2021 (Apple Music)
One of the saddest, most tragic lives in all of music, Bud Powell has always fascinated me. I first heard about him in the early ’90s, having read about his importance to the piano’s development in bebop. At the time, I was a huge Charlie Parker fan, so I knew all the pianists from those seminal Dial and Savoy sessions. But hearing Powell for the first time (on the 1989 CD reissue of The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 1) was something far beyond what I’d heard from Al Haig and Dodo Marmarosa. A technical genius with a compositional and improvisational approach that still sound “modern” to me.
For the usual reasons, I had missed this one until recently. Here is how I like to picture the session, although there’s no chance it went this way:
Alfred Lion: Bud, there are people saying you’ve lost it. That you’re no longer the player you were back in the forties. I hope you can prove them wrong with this album.
Bud Powell: Hold my beer.
Lest anyone really did think Bud had lost it by 1959, this album proves them wrong for 40 minutes. The bop chops are there, the solos, he wrote all nine tunes, and even throws in some stride-influenced playing on the impossibly cheerful “Borderick.” A tour de force of modern jazz piano.
Supporting him, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor provide the perfect balance of push and pull. Plus, Chambers has a couple of outstanding arco solos, and Taylor’s unparalleled brush work is exciting throughout.
Most of the tempos are swift, some incredibly so (e.g., “Crossin’ the Channel” is around 295bpm), and none of the tunes overstays its welcome. I know I will be returning to this one a lot and can’t recommend it more highly. So glad I finally heard it.
TL;DR: Bud Powell shows he’s still got some gas in the tank.
Favorite track: “Borderick”
- This would be Powell’s last session as a leader on Blue Note, moving to Paris sometime in 1959.
- Dexter Gordon’s character in ‘Round Midnight, struggling ex-pat Dale Turner, was partially based on Bud Powell.