Bud Powell

The Legacy of Bud Powell

When one speaks of a jazz giant or even tries to comprehend what one might look, walk, play, or talk like Bud Powell has to be the epitome of all comparisons. A complex man even considered by some to be slightly out of his mind he virtually did away with the left hand phrasing that was considered essential in the swing era. He employed his left hand to create irregular chords while his right hand mimicked Charlie Parker's speed and virtuosity. From this point forward every pianist in the post-swing period would imitate this style. His was a powerful influence whose grip could only be broken by the rise of McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans.

As most of the jazz artists of his period Bud Powell had his share of troubles. The times, the life, and the temptations of the world all played their role in the life of this genius. His genius, however, was almost cut short by a racial incident in which police beat him over the head. This incident left Bud damaged physically and emotionally for the rest of his life. His erratic behavior cost him some serious gigs. Charlie Parker thought that Bud Powell was further out on a limb than himself. It should be noted that during this period his playing was nothing short of brilliant. The 1950's with Blue Note Records generally found him at the top of his performance game. In fact, his playing was so intense at times as to be downright scary.

Europe has always been ahead in appreciating talent, and for many musicians of the 1950's and 1960's, this venue was a haven for creativity and across the board cultural acceptance. The physical and mental challenges Bud Powell faced in his latter years were soothed in the fertile and accepting atmosphere of Europe. A long stay in Paris from 1959 through 1964 may very well have lengthened his life.

When you listen to Bud Powell try and eliminate all external distractions. Imagine if you will the factors that in such a brief moment of eternity could have produced such a savant. The attempt is never easy because in listening to his music one can become lost in both the brilliance and sadness of his music as it swirls and merges again in what seems like endless possibilities of creativity. But what comes through loud and clear is the revelation that a master has come and gone and that he left a mark that would change the way jazz is viewed forever.

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