Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bud Powell - Jazz Giant (Verve: 1950, 1988, 2001)

Of all of the great jazz musicians, it's hard to imagine one whose life was as star-crossed as the great pianist and composer Bud Powell. One of the leading architects of the bebop style of jazz, Powell battled misunderstanding, mental illness, and police brutality and still persevered to become a legendary figure in jazz. The tracks that make up this album come from two different sessions recorded in 1949 and 1950, with Powell backed by Ray Brown or Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums. The music is a mix of Powell originals and standard material that is performed at a uniformly high level. Working at the top of his game in the trio setting, with the occasional solo, Powell absolutely shines on this record, playing with a speed and facility at the piano that is wonderful to behold. Regardless of the tempo, each note or chord is clearly articulated whether tearing through his own compositions like "Tempis Fugit" and "Celia," or a completely unique take on the bebop chestnut "Cherokee," playing with great intensity and extraordinary control. The standards included on the second half of the album feature Powell's more melodic sensibility and his deep understanding of song form and structure. Classic songs like "Body and Soul" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" are rendered beautifully, ably supported by the bassists and particularly drummer Max Roach who is excellent throughout, playing with a deep sense of rhythm that makes this great music truly swing. This was a really fine album, and its relatively short playing length makes it an ideal introduction to the beauty of Bud Powell's music. Jazz Giant -

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