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Late Night Piano

Late Night Piano: Bud Powell

by Seth Colter Walls

Late Night Piano: Bud Powell

About this playlist

What's better company than piano music in the after-work hours? We say nothing, and so we're giving you a series covering key piano innovators, which you can follow here.

This week, we're giving you the chance to unwind with a set of key performances by Bud Powell, a co-traveler of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus. Despite being plagued by hospitalizations (including one occurring after a police beating) and ill health starting in his 20s, Powell managed to redefine piano soloing for the bebop era, while also writing a number of startling, innovative compositions.

And yes, we've got a cut -- "All the Things You Are" -- from the legendary Jazz at Massey Hall recording by a group so famous they could just call themselves "The Quintet" (the players were Bird, Diz, Mingus, Powell and Max Roach on drums). And we've also got one ("Cherokee") from the less-well-known live trio date (Powell, Mingus and Roach) that followed the better-known release.

The top Blue Note sessions are in our mix, too: Check the hard-charging "Un Poco Loco," Powell's swing-meets-classical composition "Glass Enclosure" and the original "Dance of the Infidels" (which features a saxophonist named Sonny Rollins). Given how much Powell admired Art Tatum (another Late Night Piano subject) in his early years, it makes sense that Powell would have followed the stride master's "ragging the classics" example with a tune on the order of "Bud on Bach." Whether Powell was sporting an ebullient mood or an experimental guise, the percussive and harmonic adventurism of his top work is some of the best piano you'll ever hear. So click play on our mix, and look us up again for some more late night piano.

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