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there's a much better alternative to "Jazz Giant"
on September 20, 2008
Anyone interested in "Jazz Giant" would be far better off with the less expensive Bud Powell "Complete 1947-1951 Blue Note, Verve & Roost Sessions" compilation instead. And here's why:
1. The Blue Note/Verve/Roost compilation contains exactly the same material as "Jazz Giant" with the same personnel from the same recording sessions (trio sessions with Powell, Ray Brown & Max Roach in 1949; and Bud, Curly Russell & Roach in 1950).
2. "Jazz Giant" contains only 13 tracks. The Blue Note/Verve/Roost compilation contains 45 tracks.
3. The sound quality on the BN/V/R compilation is surprisingly bright, clean and present (a 24 bit remastering), especially considering the fact that these recordings were made some sixty year ago.
4. The BN/V/R compilation cost me six dollars less than the amazon price for "Jazz Giant."
On top of all this, the BN/V/R compilation, a 2-CD Spanish import (from the Jazz Factory), includes all of Bud's trio and solo studio sessions--all 34 of his sizzling trio pieces, all eleven of his stunningly beautiful solo pieces--for Blue Note, Verve and Roost from 1947 to 1951, including eleven wonderful Powell originals.
None of these solo pieces are included on "Jazz Giant": "A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square," "Just One of those Things," "The Last Time I Saw Paris," "Yesterdays," "Over the Rainbow," "It Could Happen to You," and five lovely Powell originals: "Parisian Thoroughfare," "Oblivion," "Dusk in Sandi," "Hallucinations" and "The Fruit."
These eleven solo pieces alone would make the BN/V/R complilation worthwhile, but the additional 34 trio tracks (only 13 of which are included on "Jazz Giant") make it an obvious choice.
Of the two dozen trio pieces included on the Blue Note/Verve/Roost compilation, but not included on "Jazz Giant," there are quite a few I wouldn't want to do without, especially the Powell originals "Bud's Bubble," "Un Poco Loco" (three takes), my personal favorite "Parisian Thoroughfare" (in both solo and trio sessions), perhaps the first recording ever of Monk's "Off Minor," as well as two takes of "Ornithology."
There are three periods of Bud Powell's work as leader: his early period, 1947 to 1953, which is his most consistently amazing. Bud's middle period, 1954 to 1958, the first half of which (1954 to 1956) is his most consistently disappointing--clunking, uninspired, mediocre. And Bud's late period, with some of the best tracks in his career coming from concert and studio sessions recorded in Europe between November 1959 and August 1964, and some of the most disappointing work coming from September 1964 on, with Powell's ill-fated return to New York.
And Bud is at the peak of his powers on these trio and solo pieces from 1947 to 1951. His inventiveness here is at least the equal to that of his legendary quintet work at the Birdland concert in May of 1950, with Charlie Parker and Fats Navarro (arguably the greatest recorded jazz concert ever). Indeed, Powell is perhaps the only other bebop musician who performed on the same extraordinary level as that of Bird. Which is to say, the performances on "Complete 1947-1951 Blue Note, Verve & Roost Sessions" are among the most masterful, the most intricate, the most engaging in the history of jazz.
One last thing (especially for those unable to locate the 2-CD set described above): As of this writing (Sept 2008), the "Complete 1947-1951 Blue Note, Verve & Roost Sessions" is incorrectly listed at amazon as the "Complete Blue Note and Verve [IMPORT]."
Five Essential Bud Powell Studio Recordings on CD:
1. "Complete 1947-1951 Blue Note, Verve & Roost Sessions," a 2-CD set from the Jazz Factory, which includes all of Powell's stunning trio and solo sessions for Blue Note, Verve and Roost from 1947 to 1951. Nice sound quality, indispensible Bud. And a lot of it, 45 tracks--34 trio pieces, 11 solo--including eleven, lovely Powell originals. One of the supreme achievements in the history of jazz.
2. "Tempus Fugue-It," a 4-CD set from Proper Box, covering 1944 to 1950, which includes Bud's 1949 quintet work with Fats Navarro and Sonny Rollins (also available, with alternate takes, on "The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol.1"), his 1949-1950 quartet work with Sonny Stitt, his 1947 quintet work with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, his 1944 work with Cootie Williams, his 1946 work with Dexter Gordon, with Sarah Vaughan, with J.J. Johnson, and with the Bebop Boys (with Kenny Dorham, Sonny Stitt and Fats Navarro), his May 1950 quintet work with Charlie Parker and Fats Navarro recorded live at Birdland (one of the greatest concerts in jazz history), as well as his trio work from 1947, 1949 and 1950 (also available on "Complete 1947-1951 Blue Note, Verve & Roost Sessions," as described in item #1 above). Perhaps the best compilation of the wide range of Bud's early work as leader from 1947 to 1950, and his very early work (before becoming a leader) from 1944 to 1947.
3. "The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume Two," from Blue Note, trio work with George Duvivier on bass and Arthur Taylor on drums, recorded at WOR Studios in NYC in August of 1953. Includes the Powell originals "Audrey" and "Glass Enclosure." Good sound quality, Bud at his lyrical best. Just lovely.
4. "A Portrait of Thelonious," from Columbia, with Pierre Michelot on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums, recorded in Paris in December of 1961. Lovely sound quality, definitive interpretations of Monk, Bud at his swinging and lyrical best. Priceless.
5. "The Scene Changes," from Blue Note, trio work with Paul Chambers on bass and Art Taylor on drums, recorded at Van Gelder's NJ studio in December of 1958. Very good sound quality, nine Powell originals, swinging and sizzling Bud.
The Best of the Rest of Bud Powell Studio Recordings, Available on CD:
6. "Bud!," from Blue Note, trio work with Paul Chambers on bass and Art Taylor on drums, and (on three tracks) quartet work with Curtis Fuller on trombone, recorded at Van Gelder's NJ studio in August of 1957. Very good sound quality, five Powell originals, inventive and bluesy Bud.
7. "A Tribute to Cannonball," from Columbia, quartet work with Don Byass (ts), Pierre Michelot (b) and Kenny Clarke (d), and (on four tracks) quintet work with Idrees Sulieman (t), recorded at Studio Charlot, Paris, in December of 1961. Lovely sound quality. Byass is on fire, and so is Bud.
8. "Blues for Bouffemont," from Black Lion, trio work with Michel Gaudry (b) and Arthur Taylor (d), recorded at Acousti Studios in Paris, July of 1964, and (on three tracks) with Guy Hayat (b) and Jacques Gervais (d), recorded live at Edenville, France, August of 1964. Nice sound quality in the studio, decent sound at Edenville. Three lovely, late-period Powell originals, swinging Bud.
9. "Bud Powell in Paris" (not to be confused with Xanadu's live "Bud in Paris"), from Wounded Bird Records, trio work with Gilbert Rovere on bass and Kansas Fields on drums, recorded in an unnamed studio in Paris in February 1963. Produced by Duke Ellington, with the only extant recording of Bud playing "Satin Doll," along with the Powell originals "Parisian Thoroughfare" and "B-flat Blues." Very good sound, lovely Bud.
10. "Our Man in Paris," from Blue Note, quartet work with Dexter Gordon (ts), Pierre Michelot (b) and Kenny Clarke (d), recorded at CBS studios, May of 1963. This is Gordon's album, with Bud in a supporting role, but it's a classic, and Powell is just wonderful.