Faced with the choice of any single Bud Powell date to aptly represent his intense musical genius, choosing Jazz Giant would not be a bad bet. Culled from two sessions (spring 1949 and winter 1950) this Verve release showcases the master of bebop piano leading a trio -- a setting in which he excelled. With impeccable support from bassist Ray Brown and drummer Max Roach, (substitute Curly Russell for Brown on the later date), an inspired Powell roars through a varied selection of original tunes and standards. In the category of brisk burners, we get one of his best-known compositions, the ebullient "Tempus Fugit." Ray Noble's "Cherokee," Harold Arlen's "Get Happy," and the ever-popular "Sweet Georgia Brown" are all taken at almost the same exhilarating clip. Powell's improvised lines at these breakneck tempos are marvelously clear and clever; take note of the Benny Harris' "Reets and I" melody which Powell quotes during his solo statement on "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm." Foreshadowing his less torrential later work is the soulful, buoyant, and supremely swinging "Strictly Confidential," which displays Powell's early and expert use of block chords to state the theme. Bud Powell's romantic and reflective side is in evidence on the medium tempo ballad "Celia" (written for his daughter) as well as on two unaccompanied solo piano tracks. Of these, Powell's haunting composition "I'll Keep Loving You" is outstanding; the subtle tension in his chord voicings, his effective use of contrast, and the consistent lack of clichés would later inform and inspire Bill Evans' solo piano concept. Powell's more florid, stride-inflected reading of Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" is directly inspired by Art Tatum. Overall Jazz Giant (and the earlier session with Ray Brown, in particular) represents the best of Powell's Verve recordings. Highly recommended!
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AllMusic Review by Lee Bloom