"Birdland 1953: The Complete Trio Recordings," a 2-CD import from Fresh Sounds Records, is one of five essential collections of live Bud Powell performances available on CD.
Powell is at his sizzling and lyrical best in these radio broadcasts from Birdland in February, March, May, June and September of 1953, with six different groupings of trio personnel. On the first CD, it's Bud with Oscar Pettiford on bass and Roy Haynes on drums for: "Tea for Two," "It Could Happen to You," "Lover Come Back to Me," "I Want to Be Happy," "Embraceable You," "I've Got You under My Skin," Ornithology," and two versions of "Lullaby of Birdland." Franklin Sheets (b) and Sonny Payne (d) on: "How High the Moon," the Powell original "Budo," "Hallelujiah," "I've Got You under My Skin," and "Embraceable You." Charles Mingus (b) and Roy Haynes (d) on: "I Want to Be Happy," "I've Got You under My Skin," "Sure Thing," "Embraceable You," "Woody n You," "Salt Peanuts," and "Lullaby of Birdland."
On the second CD, it's Bud with Charles Mingus (b) and Art Taylor (d) on: ""I've Got You under My Skin," "Autumn in New York," "I Want to Be Happy," "Budo," "My Heart Stood Still," and two versions of the Powell original "Dance of the Infidels." George Duvivier (b) and Max Roach (d) on: "My Heart Stood Still," and the four Powell originals "Un Poco Loco," "Parisian Thoroughfare," "Dance of the Infidels," and "Glass Enclosure." George Duvivier and Art Taylor on the Powell orignals "Parisian Thoroughfare" and "Dance of the Infidels." And Curley Russell and Art Taylor on: "Embraceable You," and the four Powell originals "Parisian Thoroughfare," "Dance of the Infidels," two versions of "Un Poco Loco," and two versions of "Oblivion."
Although the sound quality throughout is rather poor, it is not a significant distraction, and the pure genius of Powell's playing shines through. In fact, these are some of the most superb performances of Bud's entire career, and they come after he spent a year in a state mental hospital in 1952. He was released in February 1953, only days before the first of these recordings were made. It was near the end of his early period as leader, 1947 to 1953, when he was at the height of his powers. What is soon to follow these 1953 broadcasts is his most consistently disappointing work--clunking, uninspired, mediocre--from 1954 to 1956, which is the first half of his middle period, 1954 to 1958. And then some of the best tracks in Bud's career follow in his late period, with concert and studio sessions recorded in Europe between November 1959 and August 1964 (with his most disappointing work coming from September 1964 on, with Powell's ill-fated return to New York).
But Bud is simply amazing at Birdland in 1953. His inventiveness here is at least the equal to that of his legendary quintet work at Birdland in May of 1950, with Charlie Parker and Fats Navarro, or his stunning trio work at Massey Hall in 1953, with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, or the absolutely lovely late Powell concerts in Geneva, in Lausanne, and in Copenhagen in 1962.
Which is to say, the performances on "Birdland 1953: The Complete Trio Recordings" are among the most masterful, the most intricate, the most engaging in the history of jazz.
So don't wait until this extraordinary CD disappears; pounce.
Five Essential Bud Powell Concerts Available on CD:
1. Birdland, May 17, 1950, the legendary quintet work with Bud, Charlie Parker on alto sax, Fats Navarro on trumpet, Curley Russell on bass, and Art Blakey on drums (available on RLR's 2-CD set "Charlie Parker: Complete Live at Birdland" and Proper's 4-Cd set "Charlie Parker: Chasin the Bird," and five of the fifteen tracks are also available on Proper's 4 CD-set "Bud Powell: Tempus Fugue-It"). Poor sound quality, but Bud, Bird and Fats are on fire at Birdland. Arguably the greatest recorded concert in jazz history.
2. Massey Hall, May 15, 1953, another legendary quintet with Bud, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, but it is in the trio pieces that Bud really shines, with Charles Mingus and Max Roach (available on the Jazz Factory's "Complete Jazz at Massey Hall"). Very good sound quality, considering the time period.
3. Birdland radio broadcasts, 1953, trio pieces from various dates in February, March, May and September of that year with various personnel, including Oscar Pettiford, Roy Haynes, Charles Mingus, Art Taylor, George Duvivier, and Max Roach (available on Fresh Sound's 2-CD set "Birdland 1953: The Complete Trio Recordings"). Poor sound quality, but indispensible Bud. And a lot of it, some 42 tracks of Powell at his best.
4. Hot Club, Geneva, February 1, 1962, trio pieces with M. Cortesi on bass and Jackie Cavussin on drums, in decent but not great sound quality (available on Gambit Records' "Live in Geneva"). Bud sizzles like it's 1953 or 1950. With two bonus tracks featuring a duet: Bud and Johnny Griffin on tenor, recorded in Paris on February 14, 1960. Just priceless.
5. Lausanne Radio, January 31, 1962, Bud with Bob Jacquillard on bass and Mike Stevenot on drums, and with lovely sound quality (available on Stretch Archives' "Live in Lausanne 1962"). Swinging and upbeat and one of my favorite concert performances. Period.
The Best of the Rest of Bud Powell Live, Available on CD:
6. Essen Jazz Festival, West Germany, April 2, 1960, Bud with Oscar Pettiford on bass, Kenny Clarke on drums, and (on four tracks) Coleman Hawkins, in good sound quality (available on Black Lion's "The Complete Essen Jazz Festival Concert"). Hawkins is just wonderful, but Bud is at his best on those tracks without CH.
7. Cafe Montmartre, Copenhagen, April 26, 1962, Bud with Niels-Henning Orsted on bass and William Schioffe on drums, in good sound quality (available on Delmark's "Bouncing with Bud"). Swinging and upbeat and just lovely.
8. Paris, Club Saint-Germain in 1957 and 1959, La Radio Television Francaise in 1959, Blue Note Cafe in 1959 and 1961, trio, quartet, and quintet sessions with various personnel, including Pierre Michelot, Kenny Clarke, Clark Terry, Barney Wilen and Zoot Sims (available on Pablo's "Parisian Thoroughfares"). The six tracks from the Club Saint-Germain are among my favorites. Most tracks have surpisingly good sound, a couple less so. But Bud's playing is sizzling throughout.
9. Paris, duets, trios, and quartets from sessions at the Blue Note Cafe and other unspecified clubs in December of 1959, and February, June and October of 1960, with Pierre Michelot on bass, Kenny Clarke on drums, including two lovely quartet tracks with Barney Wilen on sax, and two amazing duet tracks with Bud and Johnny Griffen on sax, in poor sound on some tracks, decent sound on others (available on Xanadu's "Bud in Paris"). At times sizzling, at times lyrical, but beautiful Bud through and through (the two duet tracks are also available on Gambit Records' "Live in Geneva," as noted in item #4 above).
10. Club Kavakos, April 5, 1953, Washington DC, Bud with Charles Mingus and Roy Haynes (available on Collectibles' "Inner Fires"). Poor sound quality. Exceptional Bud. But just a little too much drum solo for my taste. Others may find this concert as rewarding as the extraordinary Birdland broadcasts of 1953 (see item #3 above).