New York Jazz Fest Salutes Pianist Bud Powell
“Bouncin’ with Bud,” an evening of music by the pianist Bud Powell, which built from the ethereal to the fast and furious, was a delightful revelation.
Saturday night’s concert at Alice Tully Hall was the second of six in this season’s Classical Jazz at Lincoln Center series.
The evening was all music, without spoken information about Powell, the most important piano architect of early be-bop. Powell died at 41 in 1966. Judging from the enthusiasm of the audience, they knew all about Powell and were thrilled to be hearing his infrequently played compositions. Anybody present who didn’t know Powell’s music was shown a new and wide world of music.
The evening began with two tunes played by pianist Barry Harris, who is the foremost player of the music of Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron and Powell. “Oblivion” and “Dusk in Saudi” were introspective, as delicate as a daydream wafting through blue skies, ruminations on emotions long since calmed.
Then pianist Tommy Flanagan, whose graceful but authoritative style was influenced by Powell, came on to play a brief set, the lilting “Celia,” fast, cheery and emphatic “So Sorry Please” and “Bouncin’ with Bud,” where long phrases, which make one smile with their joy, revealed Powell’s amazing melodic gift.
Pianist Walter Davis Jr. played the percussive solo “Glass Enclosure,” which shows Powell’s classical training. Both the writing and playing style evoked stern, angry 20th-Century Russian composers.
Davis introduced alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and said proudly that Powell called them his disciples. They played “I’ll Keep Loving You,” where the piano plays background chords. Then they were joined by bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Kenny Washington for “Bud’s Sure Thing,” with scorching solos for everybody.
Powell intended to write for a band but never did so. Davis, trombonist Slide Hampton and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath arranged two tunes each--bright, brassy and beautiful--for a distinguished 10-piece band for this concert.
Players were trumpeters Art Farmer and Earl Gardner, Hampton, French horn player John Clark, tuba player Bob Stewart, McLean, Heath, Drummond and Washington, with Harris and Davis taking turns on piano.
They played the spinning “Parisien Thoroughfare”; “Strictly Confidential”; “Hallucination,” roiling with inner rhythms then sliding into dissonance; “Time Waits,” with its slow, sad introduction leading into milder dissonance; “Dance of the Infidels,” with solos for French horn, trombone and tuba, and “Tempis Fugit,” full of urgent jazz spirit and feel.
Harris forgot his reading glasses and was loaned a pair by a man in the front row.
The eminently solid concert ended with more audience participation--a standing ovation.