Bud Powell

Spring Broadcasts, 1953

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Volume two of the Bud Powell broadcasts dates from a month later than the first (these are March 21 and 23), but this time the trio of Powell, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Roy Haynes isn't a constant -- Charles Mingus sits in for Pettiford on the second set recorded two days after the first. Now, no one can make any derisionary claim on Pettiford as a bassist. His tone, sense of rhythm, and crack sense of time were impeccable. His five appearances here are the kind of high-flying wizardry you would expect from the Bud Powell Trio at this time: lightning quick improvisational ideas built on harmony rather than changes in a tune ("How High the Moon," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and the truly revelatory read of Miles Davis' "Burdo"). Powell's playing, as it was when he was at his best, is effortless, flowing like a raging river to a source only it knows. On the second set that opens with "I Want to Be Happy," Powell is actually challenged by the sheer physicality and deep gutbucket R&B of Mingus. Anything is possible with a high-flying drummer like Haynes, but Mingus actually pushes the rhythm to the margin, driving it and insisting Haynes follow him to the edge of oblivion. With his rapid-fire staccato method of raining down arpeggios, Powell is right at home in the thick of this, and responds by somehow triple timing the band! No idea is half-stated -- there is full articulation of phraseology and intervallic modulation among the three and the set has just begun. It reaches its apex with the steaming "Salt Peanuts" by Dizzy Gillespie, introduced by Haynes' snare instead of the sung parts and Powell's furious arpeggio rant inside a beautiful chromaticism that may not have much room for the exploration of timbre, but it does of rhythm. And as for Mingus, he makes sure the band goes to the outer edges of the changes on the tune and then slips in a few harmonic tricks of his own. It's an exhilarating and exhausting ride and -- quality of the tapes themselves be damned -- this is an awesome recording.

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