"Live in Geneva," an import from Gambit Records, contains one of five essential Bud Powell concerts now available on CD. In fact, the best of these performances are as indispensable as anything Bud ever recorded in concert at any period.
The first ten tracks (almost all of them at least five minutes long, and some as long as seven or eight minutes) feature Bud Powell on piano, M. Cortesi on bass, and Jackie Cavussin on drums, and were recorded at the Hot Club, Geneva, Switzerland, on February 1, 1962: "Ornithology," "Swedish Pastry," "Hot House," one of Bud's most affecting interpretations of "I Remember Clifford," "Just One of those Things," "Anthropology," "Round Midnight," "Jordu," "I Know What You Know," and "Blues in the Closet." These first ten tracks are breathtakingly beautiful. The pyrotechnics are just as phenomenal as that of any of Powell's early (1947-1953) recordings, at times sizzling, at times lyrical, at times swinging. The sound quality is not very good, but it's decent enough, so as not to be a significant distraction. Tracks eleven and twelve, "Idaho" and "Perdido," are bonus tracks (also in decent but not great sound), featuring a duet: Bud on piano and Johnny Griffin (also known as the Little Giant) on tenor, recorded in Paris on February 14, 1960. In an interview late in his life, Bud called Griffin his favorite sax player, and it shows here--the two are just amazing together.
Yes, it's late Bud, but there is a mythology regarding his late period that simply does not hold up to examination. Some of the best tracks in Powell's career come from concert and studio sessions recorded in Europe between November 1959 and August 1964. Yes, there are some disappointing late dates (especially from September 1964 on, with Bud's ill-fated return to New York), and, yes, his early period as leader, 1947 to 1953, is consistently amazing, but the most consistently disappointing work--clunking, uninspired, mediocre--comes from 1954 to 1956, which is the first half of his middle period, 1954 to 1958. But when Powell left for Paris in 1959, it marked the beginning of one of the most remarkable periods in his music life.
And Bud is on fire at the Hot Club in 1962. 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 various Birdland trio radio sessions in 1953, or the absolutely lovely late Bud concerts in Lausanne in 1962, in Copenhagen in 1962, and in Essen in 1960.
Which is to say, the performances on "Live at Geneva" 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 surprisingly good sound, a couple less so. But Bud's playing is sizzling throughout.
9. Paris, duets, trios, and quartets from sessions at unspecified clubs in December of 1959, and February, June and October of 1960, with Pierre Michelot on bass, Kenny Clarke on drums, and on two tracks Barney Wilen on sax, and two other tracks a duet with Bud and Johnny Griffin 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 with Griffin 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).