Bud Powell (b. 1924), though hardly unknown, doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves from the general public as one of the piano greats in jazz history. He helped create bebop (a name he disliked) in the ’40s independetly of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, before a long slow decline related to alcoholism, schizophrenia, epilepsy (perhaps brought on by musical overtones – imagine the irony), on top of lingering damage caused by a severe beating at the hands of a racist policeman in 1945, ended his life in 1966.
Parisian Thoroughfares is a fascinating document, recorded live in Paris (where Powell lived as an expat) at Club Saint-Germain and the Blue Note between 1957-59. Though the sound quality is variable, as are some of the performances, these flaws contribute to an immediacy that is almost frightening. With your eyes closed, you might wonder how Powell and his various musical partners (including Kenny Clarke, Zoot Sims, and Clark Terry) got in your house (note Powell’s disconcerting grunting vocalizations on “John’s Abbey” and “Shaw ‘Nuff”).
“Yesterdays” is gentle and lovely, “Omicron” and “Just One of Those Things” are dazzling bop tours of creative dissonance, rapidity, energy, and articulation. For a total change, “Miguel’s Party” slows, wraps itself around an R&B groove and offers a tasty chunk of soul jazz. Join the party – enjoy the Bud.