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The Best of Bud Powell On Verve

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Album Review

When approaching the work of pioneering bebop pianist Bud Powell, the most vexing question is where to start. In 1994, the year that would have been Powell's 70th had he not died tragically at the age of 42, Verve released a five-disc retrospective titled The Complete Bud Powell on Verve. That box set provides a great starting place for anyone with deep pockets, but for everyone else Verve also released this handy one-disc distillation. It won't be anywhere near enough for Powell fans or, really, for anyone who loves jazz piano, but it is a good place to begin. Most of the signature tunes are here — the sprightly "Dance of the Infidels," the kitschily Oriental "So Sorry Please," the potboiler ballads "April in Paris" and "Tenderly," the astonishingly Bach-like "Tempus Fugue-It." Everywhere Powell's otherworldly grace and confidence are in evidence; while he made ample use of the jagged harmonic gestures and lightning speed that typified bebop playing, his compositions never sounded anything other than logical and his playing never sounded frantic or rushed. Of all the pianists of the period, Powell is the one who came closest to rivaling Charlie Parker in his ability to condense and exemplify the bebop movement. Highly recommended.


Born: September 27, 1924 in Harlem, New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

One of the giants of the jazz piano, Bud Powell changed the way that virtually all post-swing pianists play their instruments. He did away with the left-hand striding that had been considered essential earlier and used his left hand to state chords on an irregular basis. His right often played speedy single-note lines, essentially transforming Charlie Parker's vocabulary to the piano (although he developed parallel to "Bird"). Tragically, Bud Powell was a seriously ill genius. After being encouraged...
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