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Bud Powell: "The Lonely One"


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"Bud has to pour himself into that piano; it's the only friend he really talks to." — Altevia "Buttercup" Edwards (Powell)

 

I'm going to guess that this is not the first Powell record that people reach for when they want to listen to Bud Powell. Recorded in two different sessions in 1955, it's an odd mixture of high and low: effortless lines reminiscent of his brilliant mid-40's playing, and then suddenly blunted, aimless fragments while the rhythm section keeps things afloat. Nat Hentoff's original liner notes make no effort to disguise this: "Bud's records are, in this respect, like his live appearances. They're not consistent. Some may be distorted in various ways throughout an entire album; some may come fully alive only in sections ... " What a way to promote a purchase!

Hentoff's notes got me thinking about Powell's mental illness, however — and the fact that Powell was put on Chlorpromazine, which was a brand new drug as of 1950 — and to what extent he might have experienced tardive dyskinesia (involuntary and repetitive movements of the face, torso, and sometimes fingers), which is a common, and serious, side effect of Chlorpromazine. What Powell had to overcome, just in order to play, might still not be known.

At any rate, despite its curiosities and shortcomings, I find this record an intriguing listen — particularly the Monk cover of "Epistrophy." Anyone else spin this one in the last year? What do you think? I know that Powell fans "like it all," but this one stands out in that it's neither great nor a portrait of chaos.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello, sorry I have not noticed that thread, but would like to discuss this album or Bud in general with you.

As I remember it was on 3 consecutive days in the first half of january 55 and the last day was the best. They had changed to rhythm section and got his old companion Kenny Clarke.

I don´t know what medicine they gave Bud, but there where other problems on those Verve sessions too: Norman Granz was not really willing to record "vintage bop material".  And a Bud who anyway was at "half speed" or under "autocontrol" had difficulties with that, or was not really willing to play it. So manybe after the disastrous results from the first day, even the guys from Verve would let him play, just to get material to publish.

On the first date with Blakey, it must have been painful for Blakey to see and hear Bud like this. 4 1/2 years earlier (1950) Bud played the best piano he ever played (with Bird and Fats, and Blakey at Birdland) , by the way with some of the best Blakey.

Bud improved slowly after those sad early 1955 dates, he get´s a bit stronger on the spring sessions (that album titled "Piano Interpretations", and the 1956 "Blues in the Closet", and especially when he got out of that Verve contract and could record for Blue Note again.

What has to be said about Bud at any stage of his career is that he had a fantastic musical memory. When Bud returned to U.S.A. in late 1964 he got back into troubles and in that state of mind or in that state of frustration he started to play again the tunes he had recorded during his "un-years", like "Old Black Magic", "Thou Swell",

There is also a very interesting version of "Epistrophy" from Birdland in autumn 1964, which is also done in that laid back manner similar to the 1955 version. Bud seemed to love to play that tune when things were bad for him, another occasion when he played it was in 1962 at Golden Circle. Nat Hentoff was right when he wrote in his liner notes that Bud´s performances in the later state of his career were uneven. At Golden Circle there are good and very bad performances, and same at Birdland two years later. From all the recorded material, there are some great moments and some days or sets where he just shouldn´t have played.

But as you said, when I read the liner notes I can´t understand why Verve let Hentoff do such a bad publicity. Manybe they thought better a bed reputation than no reputation....

The guys from "Roulette" did a better job promoting a bad album: On one of his worst albums "The Return of Bud Powell" from late 1964, they write in the liner notes "and play he does on that album, better and stronger than ever".

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 12/11/2017 at 7:54 PM, Gheorghe said:

... he started to play again the tunes he had recorded during his "un-years," like "Old Black Magic" and "Thou Swell."

There is also a very interesting version of "Epistrophy" from Birdland in autumn 1964 ... Bud seemed to love to play that tune when things were bad for him ...

Very interesting observations. I've never considered that Bud had songs he'd lean on (and that weren't in a typical set list) while struggling through especially dark periods. "Epistrophy" makes more sense in this regard. That opening ostinato in the left hand is dark indeed.

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Thanke you Late !

In combination with Epistrophy it´s interesting to listen to his very Monkish "Mediocre". It has some astonishing stride section, though I don´t think it is more than a Monkish idea. Bud didn´t keep it in his repertory.

His most successful effort to compose a think in the Monkish vocabulary without too much copying him might be "Monopoly" from "Time Waits". It also has an astonishing stride section. And most important: Bud kept it in his repertory, he played it in Paris and quite often at Birdland 1964 after his return.

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6 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

His most successful effort to compose in the Monkish vocabulary without too much copying might be "Monopoly" from "Time Waits."

I'm going to spin that today, along with the track "Mediocre." Thanks for mentioning. I haven't spun Time Waits in a long time.

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16 hours ago, Late said:

I'm going to spin that today, along with the track "Mediocre." Thanks for mentioning. I haven't spun Time Waits in a long time.

Yes, good idea. I also should spin Time Waits again. I remember once I played with an alto saxophonist who did some of the tunes from that album : Johns Abbey, Marmalade, Monopoly, was a great experience to do it with a horn player. I still do "Abbey" on many occasions and people like it. Strange that it isn´t performed more often, it´s an easy tune....

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2 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

Strange that it isn´t performed more often, it´s an easy tune....

My impression with younger, academically trained players is that they don't like "easy" tunes because they do not feel harmonically challenged by them. They can't hear or feel that a tune is more than that.

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2 hours ago, mikeweil said:

My impression with younger, academically trained players is that they don't like "easy" tunes because they do not feel harmonically challenged by them. They can't hear or feel that a tune is more than that.

Interesting point, Mike ! Would be a topic for the Musician´s corner, I´d like to discuss it. Here just for the moment, I play a lot of jam sessions also, that means first set our unit and our setlist, and second set anyone who want´s to play. Usually the guys who want to jam, if they want to play a rhythm changes tune they play Anthropology (more rare) and Oleo, very often. But I think they learn certain tunes and it´s part of the training program they get in those schools.

Since I never attended a music school I just play what I would like to hear myself, or we concentrate on tunes that are not so much heard. Like: Everybody plays "Oleo" when he want´s to play an uptempo rhythm tune, but nobody plays "Dizzy Atmosphere" (maybe cause it´s in A-flat and more difficult to finger ? ) or "Salt Peanuts" ......, so we play whatever the guys in the second set want to play and start our own set with stuff like "Dizzy Atmosphere", "Salt Peanuts" , "Johns Abbey"......etc. when it should be a rhythm changes associated tune.....

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Dizzy Atmosphere is also notable for the bridge, which is probably different than what they are used to (I recorded it with Roswell Rudd in the early

'90s).

As for tunes, jam sessions have gotten tedious for me; it's not the simplicity of the tunes but the narrow range. I mean I Surrender Dear and Time on My Hands, just to name 2 rarely-played songs, are certainly solid harmonically. It's just that nobody knows them any more because they've never heard them. I like to call things like Dinah and If Dreams Come True, but it's pretty hopeless. Repertoire, if you want to call it that, has changed.

Edited by AllenLowe
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5 hours ago, mikeweil said:

My impression with younger, academically trained players is that they don't like "easy" tunes because they do not feel harmonically challenged by them. They can't hear or feel that a tune is more than that.

Those songs were meant to be sung and danced to. Except for a notable handful of exceptions, the changes were just there to deliver the melody and lyrics. So ,any of the schoolkids don't dance, and think that the more like a horn player a singer is the better...they're not coming from the place those songs came from, they genuinely don't "get" them. Harmonically, most of them are pretty much the same without a melody. I=vi-ii-V placed in different places/pivoting in different places, but after all these years, that's...it is what it is

Which is ok. But what's not ok is not absorbing the general esthetic.and playing with a concept of melody of some kind, any kind. They can do advanced calculus on the vertical, , but can't do basic addition/subtraction on melody (and I don't mean melody as in "songs". I ,mean basic concepts of arc, cadence (harmonic and rhythmic), sound/silence, things that have nothing to do with "style" abd everything to do with music, period.

And don't get me started on most of these "type" are insulted by the notion of dance being the essential ingredient of swing. Cecil Taylor swings because he's a dancer.

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Really a topic for the musicians forum. Your remarks, Jim, evoke more questions in my ever wondering brain: What do these younger musicians dance to, if they do? And: Do they have a somewhat narrow conception of a "tune", concentrating on the chord changes in the first place as a springboard for their improvisations, and not the whole song with all its further implications and context? That can imply a "totality of the tune" that Monk's pieces have, or the history of the tune and the words (there are many who have no idea of the words). Like Lester Young once said: "Sing me a song, man!"

A young bass player in the last band I played in told me the jazz history lessons in his school simply was watching some videos. Now how deep can that be? Anything before the advent of video recorders is jazz stone age?

Edited by mikeweil
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On 3.1.2018 at 3:21 PM, Teasing the Korean said:

I don't know the Bud Powell album referenced.  I am assuming that some of it wound up on The Genius of Bud Powell, Vol. 2, the Verve twofer?

You are right. I also had the Verve twofers in the lat 70´s. While the first twofer is the complete first two albums with the 1949-51 sessions, the second one doesn´t have all the tracks.

Actually those Verve albums from the period 1954-56 are 5 separate albums:

Piano Moods

Bud Powell "57"

The Lonely One

Piano Interpretations

Blues in the Closet.

The most uninteresting one is "57". I never knew why it´s titled "57" since it was recorded in late december54 and january 55. Really a sad thing with a shaky "That Old Black Magic", a completely forgettable "Like Someone in Love".

"Piano Interpretations is much better. It has a fantastic version of "Conception"

And there are some great moments on "Blues in the Closet", especially the "I Should Care" and "I didn´t know what time it was", and a nice stride section on "My Heart stood still".

Peter Pullman´s book gives some inside views about that period. It´s reported that the sessions were not supervised by Norman Granz.

 

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6 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

You are right. I also had the Verve twofers in the lat 70´s. While the first twofer is the complete first two albums with the 1949-51 sessions, the second one doesn´t have all the tracks.

Actually those Verve albums from the period 1954-56 are 5 separate albums:

Piano Moods

Bud Powell "57"

The Lonely One

Piano Interpretations

Blues in the Closet.

The most uninteresting one is "57". I never knew why it´s titled "57" since it was recorded in late december54 and january 55. Really a sad thing with a shaky "That Old Black Magic", a completely forgettable "Like Someone in Love".

"Piano Interpretations is much better. It has a fantastic version of "Conception"

And there are some great moments on "Blues in the Closet", especially the "I Should Care" and "I didn´t know what time it was", and a nice stride section on "My Heart stood still".

Peter Pullman´s book gives some inside views about that period. It´s reported that the sessions were not supervised by Norman Granz.

Thanks.   Since my post, I went to Discogs, and it looks like about 2/3 of Lonely One ended up on Genius Volume 2

I had Japanese Verve reissues of Piano Moods and 57, and I think I unloaded them. 

With Bud, the only albums I've revisited in recent years are Genius of Bud Powell - the first volume - and the two Amazing volumes on Blue Note.  And the Roost album.  

Edited by Teasing the Korean
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