Biography of Bud Powell (1924-1966)

American jazz pianist considered the creator of modern jazz piano style, Powell has also developed the bop genre; He was born, under the name of Earl Randolph Powell, on September 27, 1924 in New York and died of tuberculosis on July 31, 1966, in Brooklyn (according to other sources, died 1 August); son of a pianist, he married Audrey Hill in 1953; after divorce, he remarried with Altevia Edwards (Buttercup), to 1955, but this marriage also dissolved subsequently; He had a son with each of his wives, Celia, from his first marriage, and John, of the second.

Powell began studying classical music in childhood; He showed talent as a pianist and left school at the age of fifteen to pursue its own advances in piano professionally. His first appearance on stage came when he was still a teenager, in Harlem, in 1939; He performed with Thelonious Monk in the early 1940s Harlem completo Minton music room. Then he toured United States and recorded with the Cootie Williams Orchestra between 1942 and 1944; in 1946 he recorded with Dexter Gordon and participated in two of the cuts, Cheryl and Buzzy, sessions with Charlie Parker at the Savoy. Three years later, Powell was invited by the young record label Blue Note to lead a group, Bud Powell and His Modernists, and producing albums for such signature. With the percussionist Max Roach and bassist Curley Russell, Powell recorded a disc of five volumes, Amazing Bud Powell. He also recorded albums with Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker in the mid-1940s; He appeared regularly at Birdland in New York; He acted with Sonny Stitt, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Fats Navarro and J.J. Johnson in various clubs and rooms concert in New York and Toronto (Canada); in the Decade of the forties and fifties he made a tour; He also performed and recorded albums with Pierre Michelot, Kenny Clarke and Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen in Paris (France), in the time from 1959 until 1964.

But Powell made a name in the jazz community during the 1940s, he was also in these years when it suffered a serious incident in Philadelphia. James T. Jones IV, of the newspaper USA Today described the incident: "In 1945, a 21 year old Powell received a beating of a policeman trying to help his colleague and mentor, Monk, who was still shaken by the police". The greater part of the year 1945 was spent in a hospital recovering from serious after-effects. From then on, the musician began to suffer continuous and terrible headaches, attacks and, in general, an erratic behavior that led him to a psychiatric hospital, where in and out constantly and where, according to he held at the Time and New York Newsday, suffered a shock therapy; even in his own words, once they sprayed him with water mixed with ammonia. To this was added his drinking problem, together with the fact that more and ate less.

Despite this serious crisis, Powell became leader and pianist in a band of jazz over the next decade and until the second world war. His trio, The Modernists, anticipated in its session of 1949 style hard bop that would emerge at the end of the 1950s. Bud completo Bubble (also known as Crazeology) and Indiana, emerged from these sessions, disks show the combination of Powell's melodies with an unpredictable harmony in the left hand and the right hand. A little crazy, a Night in Tunisia and Parisian Thoroughfare also had own brightness.

Meanwhile, Powell, along with other modern jazz musicians, was receiving a contradictory response from American audiences. Many young, white, intellectual and Bohemian artists defending the bebop; in fact, they adopted it as the name for his Beat generation in the 1950s. On the other hand, many young black people hated the revolution of the modern jazz of the 1940s and turned to other forms such as rock and doo-wop. As reaction parallel against bebop musicians, these potential audiences rebelled against the younger generation of jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, who thought that they represented the old comic and caramel, old-fashioned style. Black listeners would regain their gender to the Decade of the fifties, when jazz musicians were more consciously focused on African-American music, with sounds of blues, hot or hard.

(See music Bebop)

Even though the pianist Bud Powell died in 1966, at the age of 41 years, he managed, however, to change the face of jazz music. Was one of the few musicians, among which are, among others, the saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and fellow pianist Thelonious Monk, which revolutionized the jazz during the 1940s inventing bebop, a modern sound that broke the molds of the swing and established musicians could be simple entertainment to become real artists. To commemorate the achievements of Powell and the 70th anniversary of his birth, in 1994 Blue Note and Verve labels released a collection of compact discs that would gather a collection of his best works: Bud Powell: The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings and The Complete Bud Powell on Verve.

He fought to create his music in the midst of a personal battle with his own problems. However, Powell, whose turbulent life was later used alongside of the saxophonist Lester Young, to create a character, Dale Turner, Round Midnight (around by midnight, 1986), led his own bands, played five years in exile in Paris and was the pioneer of a new style. One of his successors, pianist Herbie Hancock, was aware of the great importance of Powell in the Down Beat.

Powell was one of the descendants of the ragtime piano, style that evolved from the clarinet of Creole to find its own place in large number of schools and academies in the country, including the school of New Orleans, represented by the legendary Jelly Roll Morton, the Pittsburgh circle, with Mary Lou Williams and modernist Errol Garner; and group Eastern, or Harlem, with James P. Johnson and Fats Waller which would arise the modernists Powell and Monk.

The modernists of Powell group brought countless guest musicians to play in his 1,949 sessions, as the trumpeter Fats Navarro, the saxophonist Sonny Rollins, bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Roy Haynes, who gathered to play Bud and Dance of the Infidels. A milestone in his career was the concert at Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario, where he played with Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus, and who is recorded as The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever (the best concert of all time jazz).

At the end of the 1950s, Powell began to maintain a constant hostile attitude towards his companions and their relationship deteriorated. After a brief hospitalization in 1959, he moved to Paris to receive a glorious reception of the European Community of jazz. He was playing three years with the American drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Pierre Michelot, but again it came crashing down. His second wife, Altevia Edwards, Buttercup, and his friends in Paris, notably the young graphic artist Francis Paudras, took care of him, but his health problems worsened, and Powell contracted tuberculosis in 1963; This marriage broke down and your health required treatment in a psychiatric hospital. In New York, many leaders of other bop bands performed at a tribute at Birdland concert, to help defray his medical expenses. He returned in 1964.

During his performances in the following years, Powell still achieved a high level as an artist, although mood swings and physical shape were reflected in his albums. He died on July 31, 1966.


Long Tall Dexter (with Dexter Gordon), Savoy, 1946. Bird/The Savoy Recordings (with Charlie Parker), Savoy, 1946. Bud completo Bubble (Crazeology), Roost, 1947. Indiana, Roost, 1947. Bouncing with Bud, Blue Note, 1949. Dance of the Infidels, Blue Note, 1949. Tempus Fugue-it, Clef, 1949. All God's Chillun Got Rhythm, Clef, 1949. Hallucinations, Clef, 1950. A little crazy, Blue Note, 1951. Night in Tunisia, Blue Note, 1951. Parisian Thoroughfare, Blue Note, 1951. Tea for Two, high, 1953. Autumn in New York, Blue Note, 1953. The Glass Enclosure, Blue Note, 1953. Jazz at Massey Hall, Fantasy/OJC, 1953. The Bud Powell Trio: The Verve Sessions, Verve, 1955. Bouncing with Bud (with Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen), Delmark, 1962. Bud in Paris, Xanadu, 1975. The Amazing Bud Powell, Volumes 1 & 2, (1949-53), Blue Note, 1989. The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 3, (1949-53), Blue Note, 1989. Bud Powell: The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings, Blue Note, 1994. The Complete Bud Powell on Verve, Verve, 1994. The Genius of Bud Powell, Verve. The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever, Prestige.


PATTI, Nicholas: Contemporary Musicians. November 1995 (Volume 15)

COLLIER, James Lincoln: Jazz: The American Theme Song. Oxford University Press, 1993.

GROVES, Alan, and ALYN Shipton: The Glass Enclosure: The Life of Bud Powell. Bayou Press, 1993.

HOBSBAWRN, Eric: The Jazz Scene. Pantheon Books, 1993.

LYONS, Len, and Don Perlo: Jazz Portraits: The Lives and Music of the Jazz Masters. Morrow, 1989.