After bop pianist Bud Powell died in 1966, ESP-Disk Records kept his name alive with a series of archival live recordings curated from the personal collection of his wife, Buttercup Powell. Unlike their higher-profile Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker series, which were of unfortunately varying (and quite often very low) quality, the Bud Powell sessions are uniformly fine, with the excellent Blue Note Café Paris 1961 a particular standout. Working in a trio format with local bassist Pierre Michelot and former Modern Jazz Quartet drummer Kenny Clarke, Powell stretches out on a set that's half evergreen standards (including a rollicking "There Will Never Be Another You") and half songs written or co-written by his friend and mentor Thelonious Monk. Although Powell's performances during this period were occasionally erratic owing to his sometimes precarious mental state, the pianist sounds relaxed and even playful on these eight tracks, investing his solos on Monk showcases like "'Round Midnight" with a lightness of touch that matches Clarke's fleet, flashy drumming. It's not one of Powell's most essential recordings, but Blue Note Café Paris 1961 shows the pianist in a comfortable setting in front of an appreciative crowd.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason