The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 1 (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)
Earl “Bud” Powell was one of the premier articulators of bebop and one of the most important pianists in jazz history, on the same tier as Earl “Fatha” Hines from the previous generation. His first recordings as a leader, starting in 1947, were on Roost and the predecessors to Norman Granz’s Verve. But Powell also made essential recordings for Blue Note under the multi-volume rubric The Amazing Bud Powell, spanning 1949 to 1958, when he was in his glorious prime. (His mental and physical health deteriorated, leading to his death in 1966 at age 41.)
The bulk of The Amazing Bud Powell volumes featured him in the piano-bass-drums trio format that he did so much to codify as a force in modern jazz. The rhythm sections were absolute gold, and Vol. 1 includes five tunes in that vein from 1951 with bassist Curley Russell and drummer Max Roach. But the first half of Vol. 1, from 1949, finds Powell fronting one of the most astonishing quintet lineups of all time, with 19-year-old tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins in one of his early breakthrough appearances, and Theodore “Fats” Navarro, one of the paramount post-Dizzy Gillespie trumpeters, in a fabulous sideman turn just one year before his tragic death at 26. Bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Roy Haynes complete this lineup, officially known as Bud Powell’s Modernists.
Along with his piano virtuosity and limitless improvisational resources, Powell left a book of unforgettable original music, and this package contains some of the finest examples: “Un Poco Loco” and “Parisian Thoroughfare” from the trio set, and “Bouncin’ with Bud,” “Wail,” and “Dance of the Infidels” with the quintet. There are also older standards (“You Go to My Head,” “Over the Rainbow,” “It Could Happen to You”) and bebop staples (Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology,” Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia,” Thelonious Monk’s “52nd Street Theme”) that shed endless light on Powell’s pianistic language and deeply musical soul.