Personalities | Bud Powell | Fifties | Jazz & Blues

(Piano, 1924–66)

Bud Powell was the pre-eminent bebop pianist. His spare chords and asymmetric accents in the left hand combined with fluid linear inventions in the right hand to establish the foundation of the standard approach to bop piano playing. The mental instability and introverted character that dogged his life are often ascribed to a beating by the police in 1945 but may have preceded it.

He was part of Dizzy Gillespie’s seminal bebop quintet in 1945, recorded with Charlie Parker in 1947 and made a series of classic trio recordings from 1949–56 that are his primary legacy. He also took part in the famous Massey Hall concert in 1953 with Parker, Gillespie, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. He moved to Paris, France in 1959 and continued to perform there (albeit erratically) until 1964, when he made an unsuccessful return to the US. His troubled life in Paris was the major inspiration for the film Round Midnight (1986).

Styles & Forms | Fifties | Jazz & Blues
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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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