Bud Powell

Parisian Thoroughfares

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By the 1950s, pianist Bud Powell was beset by schizophrenia and alcoholism, and, as Paul De Barros notes, "It's amazing Powell continued to make music at all." While living in Paris in the late '50s and early '60s, however, he did make music, and recorded a number of live sessions at Club Saint-Germain and the Blue Note. The arrangements vary quite a bit on Parisian Thoroughfares' 13 pieces, from an intricate trio to quartets and quintets. The quality -- as admitted in the liner notes -- isn't perfect. The recordings are a bit noisy and muddy, and it doesn't help that the microphone picks up Powell's strange vocalizations on pieces like "John's Abbey" and "Shaw 'Nuff." The album, however, serves as a snapshot of a great pianist who's clearly in decline but still capable of brilliance. On "Yesterdays," for instance, Powell plays several lovely interludes against bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Kenny Clarke's spare backdrop. He's joined by tenor saxophonist Eric Peter on the five-and-a-half-minute "Omicron" (recorded for Paris TV studios), a spry bit of bop with nice ensemble playing. There are also bouncy takes of Thelonious Monk's "52nd Street Theme" and Powell/Clark Terry's "Miguel's Party." Parisian Thoroughfares isn't prime Powell, but fans will be glad that Francis Paudras documented these performances for posterity.

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