One of the shallowest things that could be said about Bud Powell is that he was a bop pianist, and yet this is how he is most frequently described. Almost certainly this is because of his celebrated association with Bird and Diz, and because of his chronological place in jazz history. But the label gives a very limited picture of a composer and pianist of unusual vision and originality.
Powell suffered from severe mental health problems, and many of his explorations on piano are profound reflections of his innermost turmoil - "Glass Enclosure", "Parisian Thoroughfare", "Dance of the Infidels" and "Un Poco Loco" are prime examples not just of this, but of his compositional breadth and complexity. Perhaps more remarkable, however, are his highly unorthodox interpretations of the bop classics, "A Night in Tunisia" and "Ornithology", both of which he had performed with Bird and Diz.
This volume and its companion, Volume 2, document Bud Powell in a number of settings, and offer alternative takes of several pieces. Rarely are alternative takes so interesting. Powell never quite approached a piece the same way, almost as if, like Eric Dolphy after him, he felt that the moment was lost in the air and it was vital to capture everything the music could express. Recently labels have taken to searching their vaults for previously discarded takes and boost the playing time of CDs by including them on re-releases. Sometimes these extras offer revelations, but more often they add little of value to an artist's legacy. However, the "alternate master" takes on these Blue Notes are essential in themselves to gaining an insight into Powell's turbulent spirit. The invited artists are no less fascinating. In particular, look out for a very young and brilliant Sonny Rollins on one of his earliest appearances on record, and the incredible electrifying trumpet playing of Fats Navarro.