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Fleeting genius fully captured

The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings
The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings
By Bud Powell

Blue Note Records: 1994

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This review first appeared in the November 29, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Bud Powell is best known as an early exponent of the hard-driving, intense piano style later popularized by Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. But Powell was more than a musical firebrand; his slower and medium tempo performances were wonderfully expressive and warm. And all of his moods are captured on the new box set, "The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings."

This four-CD collection traces Powell's career from 1947 through 1963, and includes every track he recorded for Blue Note and Roost Recordings. The personnel surrounding Powell included such talent as bassist George Duvivier, Fats Navarro, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach and longtime drummer Art Taylor.

The music ranges from hard bop like "Marmalade" (with some of the fiercest piano you'll ever here) to an emotional reading of the Cole Porter classic, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." A cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia"in 1951 shows how much Powell influenced later pianists, with his scatting behind his playing highly similar to Keith Jarrett's work 15 years later.

Powell led a tragically self-destructive life, and much of his recorded work simply does not show him in top form. This collection takes in many of his better recordings,and his genius, flawed though ti may have been, is on full display here.