News: Stereophile - 2006 Records To Die For
"Eternity" is selected by Thomas Conrad as one of the 2006 Records 2 Die 4.
My anticipation of this
project involved a unique mixture of excitement and apprehension, an unsettling mix brought
into focus by the opening performance "Spring is Here." Excitement
because, like the project's finale "Mary's Improvisation," "Spring is Here"
evokes Powell's prime with flashes of his unique artistry in runs that are an
uncanny fusion of Tatum and Monk, confirming how the stride piano tradition
could still flower into fresh, unexpected forms. Apprehension because the
piano is badly out of tune, the sonics are poor and the performance terminates
abruptly in mid-flow at 2:30. This abrupt termination is upsetting, not
least because it is emblematic of Powell's fractured life. Although he was
the one contemporary keyboard player to rival Charlie Parkers' velocity and
daring invention, the Bebop pieces here like "Shaw "Nuff" and "A Night in
Tunisia" only serve to reveal his stark decline as he fumbles through their
tricky changes. Although it is great to hear unissued originals like
"Joshua's Blues" and the somber majesty that Powell generates out of his
ponderous reflections on Monk's "Round Midnight," the lasting delight of these
performances is to hear Powell's loving engagement with the swing tradition.
He creates an inspired improvisation during the upbeat "I Hear Music," while his
cool variations in "Blues for Bouffemont" bring to mind Ellington's "Rocks in my
Bed." Powell lavishes lovely variations on ballads like "But Beautiful"
and "Someone to Watch Over Me" and swings with audible zest during the upbeat
"Idaho" and an inspired "Deep Night." One word of caution is that Powell's
habit of unison singing can detract from the intricate variations that his
fingers create. In the case of "Deep Night," this is a great pity as
his humming in tongues detracts from some spirited and inventive stride
variations. Imperfect as these performances are, no matter how startling
and disturbing they sound at times, this project confirms the wonderful healing
power of music. These raw home recordings show how music can also be the
life force. If you do not possess much Powell, there are better places to
start, but long-time admirers will find plenty to savor here.
Cadence Magazine - David Lewis 6/05
©Cadence Magazine 2004. Published by CADNOR Ltd.
All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of contents prohibited without
written permission from publisher (except use of short quotes, please
"Eternity" comprises pianist Bud Powell's last recorded work from the
early 1960's, compliments of writer Francis Paudra's piano that Bud played
during his last years. Fortunately, again, Paudra's tape recorder was running
during these 'purely Bud' sessions. We also have to thank Producer Jessica Shih
and Celia Powell, Bud's daughter, Co-producer of this magnificent compilation of
Bud Powell's music.
"Eternity" finds Bud revisiting classics like "Spring Is Here", that so
appropriately opens this CD. "'Shaw nuff' is the paradigm of classic bebop.
"Night In Tunisia" is treated gently, the way one treats a trusted friend, while
"I'll Keep Loving You" is a deeply wistful statement. We even hear the pianist's
voice, announcing several tunes with touching innocence such as "Deep Night" and
"But Beautiful". And Bud's "Round Midnight", a personal favorite of mine, draws
a sigh from me at each listening.
"Eternity" is a testimonial to Powell's lyricism, enhanced by his amazing
ability to mix key signatures within one phrase, as in "I Hear Music". Bud's
expression possesses an uncanny poetic grace (to echo Jessica Shih's comment) in
turning a musical phrase. Note "Someone to Watch Over Me". I must point out that
Mary's Improvisation (Tenderly, improvised) and Joshua's Blues, another great
bebop treatment, are extraordinarily special. They're named for Celia's
Bud Powell's "Eternity" performances are a beckoning glimpse into the
oft-hazy vistas of "jazz" at it's most classic -- meaning its purest --
especially as rendered by this undisputed master. Bud retained the delicate
intricacies of his musical 'voice' even with all the stuff he endured in this
life. (Read Bud's poem, "Eternity", in the liner notes.) Then listen to
Idaho and Blues for Bouffemont to feel the highs and lows of his musical
emotion. The admittedly less than ideal condition of the piano further attests
to Bud's artistic fortitude. This collection of pianist Bud Powell's music is
truly beyond mere words. "Eternity" simply must be experienced. It is its
Co-Producer, Celia Powell deserves the last word here.
"This CD emphasizes the power of one spirit driven to live through his
music. His mission was realized, and his music has given life to me, my children
and his fans, who have kept him very much alive….. As always, his creations of
new improvisations show he is not finished, for there is more to be said. The
infinite power of my father never ceases to amaze me. I am so glad I have
Someone to Watch Over Me…." Celia Powell
Phyllis A. Lodge 3/05
The great Bud Powell casts a very long shadow
over all jazz piano players, not to mention most melodic/harmonic
improvisers, regardless of what instrument they play. His best recordings
are simply indispensable. However, it is also known to jazz fans that
Powell's life "unraveled", after what today would be called a hate crime brought
on a crescendo of mental illness and physical damage. Those knowledgeable
fans also know that there are quite a few records made from the later years of
his life that are sad to listen to because these factors had negative effects on
"Spring is Here" opens the CD (a Rodgers and
Hart composition, though strangely no composers are given credit anywhere on the
CD) and unfortunately displays some very sloppy playing, perhaps the sloppiest
of all the tracks. Yet on "Shaw 'Nuff" and "A Night in Tunisia" there are
moments of brilliance. Bud swings hard all the way through both!
"Joshua's Blues" is touted as a never-recorded
Bud Powell original, thought it's basically a "simple" blues in Bb. Bud's
playing, however, is beautiful and grooving' hard and this might have been the
wiser choice as the CD opener. When Powell's melodic thinking is on, it's
a marvel to hear him connect phrase after phrase... not only all the right
notes, but you can dance to it! The not-oft heard "I Hear Music" (Burton
Lane and Frank Loesser) is given a joyous rendition. We are given a
glimpse of Mr. Powell's sense of harmonic surprise as well as the as finger
This CD will have an emotional resonance with
lovers of Bud Powell. These piano solos were recorded mostly at the home
of Francis Paudras, who offered a "safe haven" for Mr. Powell during his stay in
Paris ('59-'62). The tapes were willed to Celia Powell (Bud's daughter)
and it seems that her decision to release these performances is not casual, as
stated in the liners: "In light of much controversy, I believed there was still
an audience for the music and wanted to find a way for Bud Powell's fans and
would-be-fans to be exposed to his last works." Also included in the CD
booklet is a poem "Eternity", written by Bud from the hospital just before he
died in 1966.
How could this CD not be interesting to jazz
fans? Bud Powell was one of the "inventors" of bebop and his musical thinking
seems to be always inspired, never imitative.
AllAboutJazz NewYork - Francis Lo Kee 3/05
- Francis Lo Kee 5/05
(reviewed along with another Bud Powell
These two CDs are not record albums in the
traditional sense but crumpled, faded postcards from the Other Side, arriving
unannounced in one's mailbox with 40-year-old postmarks.
The Chicago critic J. B. Figi once described
the landscape of Bud Powell as "Leaden earth, thorn trees, strange hues at
the horizon...and in the center of that blasted heath, Bud, a gnarled gnomic
tree through which the wind twists song."
with its distorted, distant sound, delivers the gnarled tree of Powell's
spiritual landscape with more inescapable truth than any of his professional
recordings. Eternity was culled by producer Jessica Shih and
Powell's daughter Celia from homemade tapes of Francis Paudras, the man who is
remembered as the pianist's devoted friend and protector during his final years
in Paris. He also recorded hours of Powell's solo piano performances on an
unreliable English Ferrograph tape machine - and they are chilling. Powell
picks his way through "Round Midnight" and "Spring Is Here"
and "Someone to Watch Over Me" in a ponderous process of searching and
insistence. He blocks out each shape until it looms there, not exactly
music, more like pure human suffering ennobled and transcended by the act of its
unforgettable moments on both of these albums contain only Powell, alone with
the songs that the wind twists through him.
- JazzTimes - Thomas
This is a CD of Bud Powell playing solo for a
friend, a selection of consistent performances deficient mainly in the sound
quality of the last couple tracks, as well as some occasional slight thinning of
the recorded piano tone. It's of definite individual musical interest. Late
Powell is remarkably solid, individual, with his own solo technique that young
men might learn from. The occasional, hardly-audible rhythmic support simply
reinforced the pianist's internal rhythmic pulse.
"Spring Is Here" has quotes or echoes
of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" at the start, plus some Tatum
runs, until Powell gets into a slow stride vamp, or its chordal equivalent.
Whereupon the tape runs out. He certainly hadn't finished that one, but the
sudden stop doesn't happen again. "Shaw 'Nuff" is delightful, with the
left hand doing I couldn't say what. It really keeps the bouncy tempo and bottom
end of the music going, while Powell maintains a nice pace in the left, with a
few very rapid darting phrases thrown in. There's a more obvious underlying
rhythm to "A Night in Tunisia", which is distinguished by Powell's
ability to shadow his right hand playing with a bass part, coining a nice
two-handed pianistic fullness -- this is not top-heavy or top-overlight stuff,
and he maintains momentum. "Joshua's Blues" benefits somewhat from
Francis Paudras's un-intrusive time-keeping on brushes. It's a standard Bud
Powell sort of blues.
"Round Midnight" has a lower sound
level, and like the next two titles, comes from 1962. The playing has more
obvious fluency, with a couple of thoughts of playing fancier runs which just
get stopped. The fluency abates as the pianist goes into an interesting
variation. This performance is an interesting stripping down of the tune, which
has an underlying slow 'oom-pah' the left hand hardly ever completes, the 'pah'
being variously implied by right hand harmonies.
The chorded bits opening "I Hear
Music" have a lot of energy. Powell sounds nicely relaxed going into a
linear bit in the right hand, managing to keep a contra-dance in the left, and
happily the barking sound of his singalong is muffled. He rolls back into the
chordal performance of the theme and plays out in far from commonplace style.
The Tatum style comes back in "Someone to
Watch Over Me", where Powell sounds as if he's rehearsing an introduction
with shifts of chording duties between the respective fingers of each hand. It's
a nice into-and-out-of-tempo ballad, the playing gathering pace as it swells
into the vocal line's tune and breathing into a pause where the accompaniment
would normally fill in. There seems to be some joking in the thoroughness with
which the gentle single note runs are played, not least the self-parodic one
inserted in the finale of the performance, which plays out with the opening of
the Kentucky anthem and a smile.
He sounds like a tone parallel to Thelonious
Monk on several items; the same sort of expressiveness but not the Monkian
harmonies. "I'll Keep Loving You" (1961 again) has him playing with
both hands and doing the work with the inside fingers of his chording hands.
"Idaho" proceeds at a brisk walk,
cheerfully, as if remembering the great Blue Note performance of the tune on an
LP with Curtis Fuller, where Powell went into full-blown stride piano. His own
much newer "Blues for Bouffement" (1960) has a lot of traditional
features and a weight of sound not exactly common among pianists. George Foreman
plays Ray Charles? He gets a great ringing sound with his address to the
keyboard, even playing around with 1940s R&B licks.
"The name of this tune is 'Deep
Night'", he says, before launching into an upper-medium-tempo performance
which suffers more than anything else here from his vocalisations and some tape
problems. His means of keeping things moving are various, and include some
stride episodes. The same 1963 tape produced a "But Beautiful" which
jollies along before a chordal theme statement in his old style, with a few
trademarks endearingly echoing his Blue Note recordings of fifty years ago
(fifteen years before this performance was recorded) quite closely.
The final title is "Mary's
Improvisation" from 1961. Powell plays a lot of piano, with some whole note
runs in the opening, alternating with chording until he's playing so downright
orchestral a "Tenderly" that the tape recorder is seriously
challenged. The distortion is less with the single notes he uses for an ending.
"Ten-der...", and then, after a pause, an incredibly ringing tone
When Emil Gilels was trying to finish his
Beethoven sonata recording project before his untimely death in 1985, reviewers
pointed to an increasing renouncement of virtuosity in favor of exploration of
internal voices and textural concerns. It was as if Gilels was attempting
to strip all artifice away from his performances so that “the composer’s
voice” could be heard plainly.
Much the same can be said of Bud Powell’s final Paris years as represented by
these previously unpublished solo piano recordings. In Powell’s case,
declining health certainly played a substantial role in his altered approach to
the keyboard, but illness of all sorts does not explain everything. It
might be said that Powell’s guiding spirit of the period was Thelonious Monk,
who is invoked on several of these privately recorded performances.
Monk imbues the fragmentary opening track, “Spring Is Here”, so completely
that a listener would be forgiven for citing Monk as the player. The deep
resounding chords, all at about the same dynamic level, and the softer runs,
arpeggios, and other embellishments all point to early-60s solo Monk. A
beautifully stirring version of “’Round Midnight” presents a similarly
poignant homage to Powell’s old friend, and the exploratory rendition of “I
Hear Music” speaks to Monk’s quirkily transcendental sense of harmony, even
in contexts that do not directly reference Monk.
In “Joshua’s Blues”, Monk’s “In Walked
Bud” is quoted, and the disc’s final improvisation demonstrates just how
much Monk’s musical language had come to pervade Powell’s own. It is
as if Powell’s 1949 recording of “Cherokee”, with its intricate
counterpoint and adventurous substitutions, had been shorn of its melody, slowed
down, and expanded, each harmony being in need of arpeggiated reassertion, most
assuredly a result of Powell’s association with one of Bebop’s elder
Powell’s prime is at least partially in evidence in several tracks on this
collection. “Shaw ‘Nuff” is as close as he comes to recapturing his
fleet-fingered youth, but even here, more attention is paid to underlying
harmonic structure than to melodic invention. “Night in Tunisia” shows
Powell eschewing the inherent difficulty of transitional passages and sticking
to a simpler almost stride-like interpretive plan. These adaptations do
not take away from any enjoyment afforded by these performances, which is
considerable. It is simply a different and possibly more mature aesthetic.
Recording quality is second-rate, as is to be expected—these are Francis
Paudras’ home recordings, some before a small audience and some not.
However, they are invaluable documents of this period of Powell’s slow
decline; they should be heard in tandem with the emerging series on Fantasy, and
all these recordings together must now be considered essential listening for
anyone wishing to completely understand Bud Powell’s legacy.
Eternity is one of those
concepts that can be hard to wrap your mind around, if you really think about
it. How can anything in this world last for eternity? If we're to
believe the scientists and their warnings of global warming and other ecological
damage, the world itself won't last for eternity. And aren't we trying to
figure out what to do if an when the planet becomes uninhabitable? Some
things, however, are timeless. I'd like to think that one day generations
from now, people (wherever they may be) will be listening to the music of the
jazz masters of the America of the nineteen forties and fifties, planet
Sadly, some of the most
eternally listenable of the jazz masters are the ones whose lives were the polar
opposite of eternity. Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Clifford Brown... the
list of musical geniuses in the field of jazz who left this world entirely too
early goes on and on. One of these tragic cases is that of Bud Powell, the
virtuoso of the jazz piano and be-bop pioneer who died in 1966, at forty-one
years of age.
Eternity is an
interesting new collection of Bud Powell's solo piano performances. The
tracks from the CD were recorded in the Paris apartment of Powell's friend
Francis Paudras, who often opened his door to the pianist during his trips to
Paris. All of the tracks were recorded during the last three years of
Powell's life, and the latest were recorded just months before his untimely
death. Included are classics such as "A Night in Tunisia',
"Round Midnight" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" as well as
originals like "Blues for Boufemont", written during Powell's stay in
the sanatorium of the same name, and "Joshua's Blues", which makes its
only recorded appearance on this release.
The recording quality
of the CD is less than perfect, but crystal clear audio is not at all what Eternity
is about. Rather, this new release is about the preservation of a genius'
last gifts to the world, for that is truly what each and every Bud Powell
performance was. While the man's life was troubled, tragic and short, his
music will live on for eternity.
- Jazz Improv Magazine - Dave Miele V5N2
contains some of the last recordings of Bud Powell—specifically those the his
friend Francis Paudras recorded in his apartments in Paris from 1961 to 1964,
making available some of Powell’s work when he was inaccessible to American
audiences, when he had fewer opportunities to record and when his health started
its final decline. It turns out that Paudras, as is well known by now, allowed
Powell to perform late at night in his apartment as he recognized the importance
of Powell’s talent, much as the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter did when
she became the benefactress for Thelonious Monk in his final years. And as
Powell’s health started to fail and he was admitted to a tuberculosis ward in
Paris, Paudras was there to take care of him before Powell moved back to the
United Stated in 1964. Powell passed aware in July, 1966.
Not only did Paudras give Powell a place for
expressing himself on the piano, but also he recorded many of the sessions as
Powell performed only for himself. And those tapes were turned over to
Powell’s daughter, Celia, who knew that she had some valuable raw material
that awaited discovery by the larger public but was unsure how to market them.
Then she met Jessica Shih, who shared the same devotion to the project, and the
result now is Eternity, a carefully selected series of solo performances
recorded in Paudras’ home.
Listeners who are accustomed to Powell’s
speed and irrepressible energy, which influenced a generation of jazz pianists,
will find Powell to be more explorative in Paris, especially when he was alone
without the prodding of other musicians. Indeed, the music of Eternity is
contemplative, and the dark, slow “’Round Midnight” is especially
appropriate, considering the time of night when Paudras recorded Powell. In
addition, Powell was into exploring Monk’s music particularly during his years
But some of the other songs that Powell wrote
during this period reflected his concerns and contemplative moods, such as
“Blues For Bouffémont,” which he wrote while he was in the tuberculosis
sanitarium. While “Joshua’s Blues” and “Shaw ‘Nuff” are reminders of
Powell’ trailblazing work in helping to establish the language of bebop,
“Mary’s Improvisation” consists of mostly dramatic sustained chords and
arpeggios based on the harmony of “Tenderly.”
But consideration must be allowed for the
circumstances of the recording: (1) that Powell wasn’t playing for an
audience, only for himself; (2) that Paudras’ piano was not concert-quality,
to say the least, though an Erard baby grand; and (3) the recording technology
on Paudras’ Ferrograph tape recorder was not state of the art. Nevertheless, Eternity
includes valuable last recordings of Bud Powell, without accompaniment or
enhancement, that lay bare his concerns during the years he lived in Paris,
recorded from 1961 to 1964.
Bud Powell was a troubled soul, whose mental
illness was likely due to a beating in the head by police, though it wasn’t
helped by his fondness for alcohol. Not long after he left to live in Paris,
Francis Paudras, who not only looked after him but also invited him to live in
his apartment, befriended him. Paudras greatly encouraged the troubled pianist
and made private recordings of Powell playing on the baby grand piano in his
apartment on numerous occasions. Although a number of these recordings were
issued by Mythic Sound and Pablo, this collection is previously unissued from
tapes passed on to Celia Powell (the pianist’s daughter) following Paudras’
suicide. While the recording quality is uneven at times, with occasional
extraneous noise from outside the apartment and some performances incomplete,
the instrument is in better shape than many nightclub pianos Powell likely
played in the U.S. earlier in his career. Yet his improvised introductions are
often elaborate and he doesn’t always wail along as he did on many of his
major label sessions made for American labels. Among the highlights within this
compilation are “A Night in Tunisia,” a lovely “Someone to Watch Over
Me” (which succeeds in spite of some flutter in the tape), along with a
previously undocumented original, the delightful “Joshua’s Blues.”
“Blues for Bouffemont” was written while Powell was treated in a
sanatorium for tuberculosis; this slow blues more than proves the pianist still
had something to offer jazz fans in spite of his failing health. Paudrus quietly
accompanies Powell on brushes on a few tracks, keeping good time. This CD is
highly recommended and I hope there are more recordings in Celia Powell’s care
for future release.
These solo piano sessions by Bud Powell were
recorded between 1961 and 1964 in Paris at the home of his friend, Francis
Paudras. The recordings, while made informally and never released, have
preserved the sound and the spirit that the pianist espoused as a pioneer of
bebop and as an influential force on many aspiring jazz artists. Like most
dedicated pianists, Powell played out of a love for the music. Among the song
titles, you'll recognize his grandchildren's names, as well as the name of a
tuberculosis sanatorium where he received treatment. Ever expressive, he played
the piano in the comfort of his friend's home with no strings attached. His
performances stand informal and relaxed.
“I Hear Music” and “Shaw 'Nuff” swing
with the driving bebop spirit that we recall from Powell's earlier
collaborations. “Joshua's Blues,” “Mary's Improvisation” and “Blues
for Bouffémont,” on the other hand, reveal a different side of the artist:
his loving affection. Deep passion drove him on these introspective adventures.
Similarly, slow and meaningful interpretations of “But Beautiful,”
“Someone to Watch Over Me” and “'Round Midnight” offer proof of the
pianist's deep love for his music.
Powell's voice can be heard clearly as he
announces several songs and sings along in his unique manner. He enjoyed the
creative spirit that drove him. The apex of his influence on aspiring bebop
pianists was his blazing fast speed. With Eternity, we get to enjoy both
his virtuosic displays and his compassionate musings—up close and personal.
unreleased solo piano performances were recorded by photographer Francis Paudras
in France and are from an extensive tape collection owned by Celia Powell, Bud's
daughter. Although Bud Powell's playing was erratic during the era, he is
generally excellent form on the 13 solos. The piano is not always perfectly
in-tune but it is listenable and the recording quality is better than expected.
While Powell's ballad renditions are intense, he sounds joyful on some of the
uptempo pieces, particularly “Joshua's Blues." Other highlights include
“A Night In Tunisia," “Someone To Watch Over Me," “Blues For
Bouffemont" and “But Beautiful." This is a valuable addition to Bud
Powell's discography and is well worth picking up.
Bud Powell was a powerful
pianist who came up in the Bop era and is usually spoken of as the equal of
such giants as Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In
fact, one of Monk's tunes is entitled, "In Walked Bud."
There are other
recordings of Powell which are better from the point of view a recording
quality, done at a time when he was at the peak of his pianistic prowess.
On this CD, these rare selections were recorded privately when he was in France
during 1961-1964. They were recorded by Powell's friend and benefactor,
Francis Paudras in Paudras' home. These selections are more reflective
than intense. Although Powell was in failing health, the recordings are of
The movie " Round
Midnight" starring saxophonist Dexter Gordon was similar to some of the
events in Powell's life. The protagonist is self-exiled to France.
He has difficulty with the small details of life and is befriended by a young
Frenchman who helps him over some of the rough spots and returns to the U.S. and
unhealthy surroundings and dies shortly thereafter. The movie, for which
Dexter Gordon was nominated for an academy award as leading actor, was
excellently done with a great cast of musicians. Gordon's musical and
acting performance was all the more poignant in that he, himself, was dying of
Powell returned to the
U.S. in 1964 and died at age 44 in 1966. Cause of death was attributed to
tuberculosis, alcoholism, liver disease and malnutrition.
We appreciate producer
Jessica Shih and co-Producer Celia Powell (Bud's daughter) for sharing these
rare, private recordings with the public.
- The Escambia Sun-Press - Norman Vickers 10/04