Matthew

Peter Pullman-- Bud Powell Biography

239 posts in this topic

Thought that Mr. Pullman would have his Powell biography out by now. I did a Google search, and this is all that I can find from February 2005.

AfriGeneas Military Research Forum

ancestor of pianist-composer Bud Powell

Posted By: Peter Pullman <Send E-Mail>

Date: Monday, 21 February 2005, at 3:05 p.m.

Hello. This is my first post.

I belong to the jazz-research listserve. K Wyer Lane, who also belongs to the group, recently told us about this discussion.

I am writing the biography of Earl "Bud" Powell (1924-66). In his only extant interview (no part of which was ever broadcast or published), he says that his grandfather went to Cuba "all the time" to play guitar. (He says no more about this, and the interviewer changes the subject.)

As Bud's father was born, in or near Richmond, VA, around 1890, Bud's grandfather was probably born in the 1860s.

Jazz reference and other works have long speculated about Bud's grandfather (though none knew of the existence of this interview). The obvious explanation has been that he was involved in the Spanish-American War, whether as combatant or as part of a military band. While I have only contacted Frank Schubert about this -- and he said that he knew of no one named Powell in the Buffalo Soldiers -- I am doubtful that Bud's grandfather had anything to do with the war. (Two other jazz greats, Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon, are said to have had ancestors who fought in Cuba; maybe that's why it has been written that Bud's grandfather did, too.)

I would love to hear from anyone with a strong suspicion as to how (and why, aside from the desire to play music; that's a long way to go for a gig) Bud's grandfather went to Cuba. I would love to be proved wrong, if someone has a good case for Bud's grandfather's involvement in that war or in any military adventure.

Thank you for your considered attention.

Anyone know whats going on?

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Don't know. I've been in touch with him recently, I'll ask.

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I did ask. We will wait for an answer.

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"You have a friend in the business". :lol::lol:

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Peter is meticulous and that sort of thing takes time. Knowing him, I bet that not a scrap of useful information will be left unturned--and every comma will be in place. :g

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Peter is a friend of mine as well and I'll second the accolades. I have heard him present over four hours worth of Bud biography. This will be worth the wait. You would not believe the i's he is dotting. This kind of attention to detail is what makes the hastily thrown-together things (i.e., the Wayne Shorter, Clifford Brown, etc.) seem so appallingly bad in comparison.

Mike

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I interviewed Peter for a three-hour Bud Powell program that I did about five years ago at WFHB in Bloomington. He's been through a lot w/this book, but it will indeed be worth the wait. Powell is certainly in need of a good bio--Paudras' DANCE OF THE INFIDELS is riddled with inaccuracies & falsehoods, and THE GLASS ENCLOSURE is a disgrace.

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You forgot the part about how the radio program is archived online (or how you're going to reformat the show for an upcoming Night Lights).

Mike

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You forgot the part about how the radio program is archived online (or how you're going to reformat the show for an upcoming Night Lights).

Mike

Yeah, come on GofM, get with the program! ;) Seriously, I can understand why it's taking a long time to finish -- just to be able to set the record straight, seperate fact from fantasy in Powell's life, has to be one major undertaking. Can you imagine how many different versions of the beatdown that Powell recieved form the police? And, was it Monk's pot? Who in the heck really was Buttercup, and how did Powell and her relate? If there's any chance that the Powell estate would allow Mr. Pullman is look at Powell's medical records? The questions are endless.

Edited by Matthew

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I'm forgetting where exactly he got the info, whether he had access to medical records, but Pullman definitely has MUCH material on the hospitalization and the treatments.

Mike

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Am I wrong in understanding that Powell underwent numerous electric shock treatments? and that he had insulin theapy? Just those two treatments would screw anyone up. :tdown

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You forgot the part about how the radio program is archived online (or how you're going to reformat the show for an upcoming Night Lights).

You're a mind-reader! ^_^

I may have to re-do the interview--I have the tapes somewhere, but the sound quality was a bit iffy, as we did it live over a not-so-great phone connection. We definitely talked about doing another show when the book got published--I'm sure it will come to pass, probably as a two-parter.

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A wonderful paragraph by Michael Fitzgerald (from the Wayne Shorter biography discussion) that gives a great perspective on my question of why the Powell biography is taking so long.

Good jazz biographies take a *very* long time. They cannot be done properly in a couple of years. Just can't. Crappy writers *can* put a book together very quickly. It's like an assignment. They don't have anything really invested in the subject, they just slap together some quotes, regurgitate what has been published elsewhere in various sources, and - wham - there it is. Another Leslie Gourse fast food monstrosity. On the other hand, quality biographies are cultivated, they stem from a long-standing familiarity with the subject. Every avenue is explored, you dig into every nook and cranny. Sources are interviewed and re-interviewed, conflicting stories are heard, considered, and evaluated; conventional wisdom is challenged with hard evidence; all the recordings are gathered and listened to, over and over. All the interviews, all the photos, every reference - it all goes into the mix. After this long process starts to wind down, then the writing begins (and the research still goes on in my experience). But first and foremost, it's got to be a subject that you love, that you have a passion for, that you are not only willing to learn *everything* about, but that you feel you *must* learn everything about. The bad books are the ones where I as a reader go in knowing *something* about the subject and then I realize that - uh oh - I know more than the author. That shouldn't be......

Thanks for the great insight Mr. Fitzgerald. :tup

PS: Crossover can be good at times.

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He had shock therapy. I have never heard of insulin therapy.

GOM, what inaccuracies did you find in Paudras' book. I"d be curious to know. Even with that, we have to take it for what it is, a memoir or a recollection of an impassioned friend.

I am glad that Mr. Pullman is dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s because this is one book I will surely want to have. Until then, I will wait however.

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GOM, what inaccuracies did you find in Paudras' book.  I"d be curious to know.  Even with that, we have to take it for what it is, a memoir or a recollection of an impassioned friend.

Brad,

I read it when it first came out in paperback over here & don't have it at hand right now, so I can't really cite specific instances... I recall that some of his dates were wildly off, but it went further than that. I'm not saying that Paudras' book is without merit, as he was indeed close to Bud for several years and played a key part in his stay in France during the early 1960s. But I've heard from reliable sources that he had a penchant for embellishing his role in Bud's life and career.

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I found Paudras's book annoying sycophantic - it's too bad, as I spent a day with him in NYC in 1980, and he was a truly nice guy with good intentions, who was quite knowledgeable about Bud in both personal and musical ways -

Edited by AllenLowe

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I will not try to defend Francis Paudras but I will say that the original edition (in French) was one of those 'work of love' edition.

This was a huge (and very heavy) coffeetable size 410-page book with hundreds of photos, many pretty rare. It was published in 1986 by L'Instant

A book to treasure. Paudras is credited with the design and concept and he did a very good job!

I'll wait for Pullman's book to be published.

Now if someone asks me if anyone is going to get Bud Powell's life right, I'll bet on him.

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I will not try to defend Francis Paudras but I will say that the original edition (in French) was one of those 'work of love' edition.

This was a huge (and very heavy) coffeetable size 410-page book with hundreds of photos, many pretty rare. It was published in 1986 by L'Instant

A book to treasure. Paudras is credited with the design and concept and he did a very good job!

I'll wait for Pullman's book to be published.

Now if someone asks me if anyone is going to get Bud Powell's life right, I'll bet on him.

Agreed, Brownie... and I should hasten to add that I truly don't mean to "attack" Francois Paudras. He did much to help Bud, obviously. I'd like to see the French edition of that book some day--I've heard a lot about it.

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Been going through Powell's Blue Note Recordings, any new word on this bio, or is it looking like 2007?

Edited by Matthew

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I had some time to kill last night so I went looking for any kind of update on Pullman's book on Bud Powell, and the only current reference I found was from Budpowell.com, which mearly states: A full biography by Peter Pullman, Wail: The Life of Bud Powell, is forthcoming. And this question in the Harvard Magazine:

Peter Pullman asks if anyone can identify original sources—perhaps “from various bad poems that composer-pianist Earl ‘Bud’ Powell had to memorize in primary school”—for Powell’s lyric “The Great Awakening.” What may be its earliest version, found among the papers of fellow musician Mary Lou Williams, runs: “I was sitting in the Garden one late afternoon/And out of the sky a feather fell!/And not a moment to[sic] soon./I didn’t stop to regard from what source it came/I only know it lifted me from out of the depths of shame./You see, I never really lived/All I’ve done was exist/For all the joy I’ve ever known, was from a knife, a gun, or fist./I came up the hard way, that is, the boys, a drink, and a broad/But from this moment hence,/I’m drawing my sword./ And I’m going to cut the weed of temptation, before it entangles me./And live the way God intended/This short but sweet life to be./Oh, but there’s one thing I’ve not cleared up, and that’s the missing link/From whence the feather came has started me to think./And as I looked up at God’s creation/A school of pigeons flew by./It was then I knew where it came from/God had used a spy.”

*sigh* I can keep waiting.

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I've been playing something of an informal advisory-editorial role here. The book is completed and is IMO excellent -- everything one could wish for when it comes to nailing down facts, sorting out myth from reality, establishing social context, etc., etc. Pullman's labors here are almost awe-inspiring in their thoroughness, and no less important, their scrupulousness. In particular (and I think this was a very wise choice), Pullman doesn't presume to be able to read Powell's mind. Also the book is not, nor is it intended to be, a book in which Powell's music is analyzed. Pullman writes very well. The density of information is at a very high level when such information exists and can be dug up (and information of that density is what most people like us would want, I think), but the book certainly flows and has moments of high drama. The only problem now is bringing it into dock with the publisher. I don't know all the details there and probably wouldn't tell you if I did, but I expect docking maneuvers will be completed successfully and soon.

Edited by Larry Kart

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Larry, your assessment comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Peter's dedication and ability. Looks like it all predictably came together in a book that I long to savor.

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Mr. Kart: That is good news to hear. Pullman will do a great job on this, and I like the fact there will not be a lot of musical analysis or mind reading of Powell. Just getting the facts in order, and dispelling the myths surrounding Powel, will be a great service to the memory of Powell.

PS: My hope is that the publisher is very understanding and doesn't demand a bulldozer be taken to the text.

Edited by Matthew

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Matthew's really nailed it. I am the type of reader whose eyes glaze over at extensive musical notation/analysis, but getting the truth about Bud's life and career should make this one a keeper, especially if the author is such a talented writer, too.

Who knows, a book without the musical analysis might sell a little more and maybe that will encourage publishers to put out more of this type of jazz biography.

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Matthew's really nailed it. I am the type of reader whose eyes glaze over at extensive musical notation/analysis, but getting the truth about Bud's life and career should make this one a keeper, especially if the author is such a talented writer, too.

Who knows, a book without the musical analysis might sell a little more and maybe that will encourage publishers to put out more of this type of jazz biography.

Actual music confuses many fans. :cool:

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