Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bud Powell

  • Eight Classic Albums [Real Gone Jazz, 2011] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Eight Classic Albums [Real Gone Jazz, 2011]
Poking around Amazon I came across this compact, unannotated, four-CD, 74-track set for 13 bucks and said what the hell--I'd never investigated Powell and Carola can't get enough jazz piano. When it arrived I was alarmed to discover that among the P's and R's hidden behind my office door resided the equally compact, richly annotated, five-CD, 101-track 1994 The Complete Bud Powell on Verve, '40s-heavy material that I was relieved to learn shares not a single recording with this set and bemused to learn remains in print for, well, 70 bucks. Unsystematic comparison listening indicates that you might as well start with these '50s sessions. Personally Powell was a wreck--his pal Thelonious once took a heroin rap for him. But more than Monk, whose deepest musical commitments were to his unimaginable melodies and implacable left hand, Powell was a pure bebop improvisor. Only one of the eight full albums here is a full classic: 1951's The Amazing Bud Powell, with drummer Roy Haynes and, crucially, Fats Navarro and Sonny Rollins's horns. Except for 1957's The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 3, where Curtis Fuller's trombone adds color, the others are trio jobs, with Art Taylor usually on drums as the bass passes from George Duvivier to Paul Chambers to Sam Jones to Ray Brown. My favorite is 1958's The Scene Changes--The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 5--hear Chambers rise to the surface of the eight-minute "Comin' Up." For sheer piano, check out the title track of Time Waits--The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 4. And the thick, speedy, bop-infused "Bud on Bach" reminds me to specify that never as I've ranged unsystematically through this bargain has a single track riled my tinkle-averse side. A-