Texas tenorman Jesse Powell was born February 2, 1924. There is very little biographical information about his early years, other than his working with Hot Lips Page, Louis Armstrong, and Luis Russell. He joined Count Basie's Band in 1946, replacing the great sax player Illinois Jacquet, which says something about his abilities.
Powell appears on a number of blues recordings in the late 1940s with people like Brownie McGhee, Willie Jordan, and Doc Pomus. He also worked with Champion Jack Dupree and continued to play jazz, touring France with Howard McGee in 1948. He played bop and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie in 1949. During the 1950s, as bebop fell out of favor, Powell found steady work with a variety of R&B artists.
He recorded as a leader for Federal in 1951 and 1953 and had established himself with the Josie label by 1954, which included groups like the Cadillacs. His R&B work included a number of singles, and studio work with Atlantic/Atco in the late 1950s. His work can be seen on the classic single "Mr. Lee," by the Bobbettes, where he takes the tenor solo.
Powell was back recording jazz in the early 1960s. In 1961, he recorded Party Time for a subsidiary of Prestige. In his later years, he worked in Harlem and made only a few recordings. Those wishing to hear Powell's work are recommended to the Prestige album Texas Tenors, produced by Bob Porter.