Bud Powell

Instrument

Earl Rudolph "Bud" Powell (September 27, 1924 – July 31, 1966) was an American jazz pianist and composer. Along with Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie, Powell was a leading figure in the development of modern jazz. His virtuosity led many to call him the Charlie Parker of the piano.[1] Powell was also a composer, and many jazz critics credit his works and his playing as having "greatly extended the range of jazz harmony".

Powell's father was a stride pianist.[3] Powell started classical piano lessons at the age of five.[4] His teacher, hired by his father, was a West Indian man named Rawlins.[5] At 10 years of age, Powell showed interest in the swing music that could be heard all over the neighborhood. He first appeared in public at a rent party,[6] where he mimicked Fats Waller's playing style. The first jazz composition that he mastered was James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout". Powell's older brother, William, played trumpet and violin, and by the age of 15 Powell was playing in William's band.[7] Powell heard Art Tatum on the radio and tried to match his technique. Powell's younger brother, Richie Powell, was also a noted bebop pianist.

The Parker session was the only appearance that Powell made in a studio in 1947.In November, he had an altercation with a customer at a bar in Harlem. In the ensuing fight, Powell was hit over his eye with a bottle. When the staff at Harlem Hospital found him incoherent and rambunctious, they sent him to Bellevue, which had a record of his previous confinements. He was sent to Creedmoor State Hospital, where he spent eleven months. Powell adjusted to being in the hospital, though in psychiatric interviews he expressed feelings of persecution founded in racism.[14] From February to April 1948, he received electroconvulsive therapy after an outburst which may have been prompted by learning from his girlfriend that she was pregnant with their child. The electroconvulsive therapy was considered ineffective, so the doctors gave him a second series of treatments in May. He was released in October 1948.

In 1963, Powell contracted tuberculosis. During the next year, he returned to New York to perform at Birdland with drummer Horace Arnold and bassist John Ore. His performances during these years were adversely affected by his alcoholism.[13] His emotions became unbalanced, and he was hospitalized in New York after months of erratic behavior and self-neglect. On July 31, 1966, he died of tuberculosis, malnutrition, and alcoholism.