Powell, Bud

Powell, Bud
orig. Earl Powell

born Sept. 27, 1924, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Aug. 1, 1966, New York City

U.S. jazz pianist and composer.

Powell played in Cootie Williams's big band (1942–44) before becoming part of the burgeoning activity of bebop in the late 1940s. His style became the predominant approach for post-swing era pianists: he did away with most accepted functions of the left hand, reducing it to playing brief, syncopated chords supporting long melody lines by the right hand. He moved to Paris in 1959 and returned to the U.S. in 1964. His career was interrupted several times due to nervous breakdowns thought to derive from head injuries sustained in a racially motivated attack in 1945.

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▪ American musician
byname of  Earl Powell  
born Sept. 27, 1924, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Aug. 1, 1966, New York City

      American jazz pianist who emerged in the mid-1940s as one of the first pianists to play lines originally conceived by bebop horn players.

      Powell played with the Cootie Williams (Williams, Cootie) band (1943–44) and sat in on the jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem. Crafting a style from pianists Art Tatum (Tatum, Art), Billy Kyle, and Thelonious Monk (Monk, Thelonious), trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (Gillespie, Dizzy), and saxophonist Charlie Parker (Parker, Charlie), Powell soon became one of the most influential jazz pianists of the era.

      In his soloing, Powell was among those who did away with most accepted functions of the left hand; he reduced it to playing brief, often syncopated, jabs of two- or three-note chords supporting long, single lines by the right hand, which became the accepted approach for modern jazz of the next 20 years. At his prime, Powell had the speed and dexterity to almost keep up with Parker and Gillespie in his soloing. Although his facility began to deteriorate during a series of nervous breakdowns in the 1950s, he still turned out creative piano improvisations. Powell also composed a few great jazz pieces, such as “Hallucinations (Budo),” “Tempus Fugue It,” “Bouncing with Bud,” and “Un Poco Loco.”

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Universalium. 2010.

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