All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Book Reviews

The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History And The Challenge of Bebop

By Published: October 11, 2013
Powell was perhaps more reified in France—where he would live out his final years—than in America, where the mental health problems that plagued him and his alcoholism made him a less than reliable or consistent leader or sideman. As Ramsey Jr. puts it: "Apart from his music, most of his life was beyond his control: he toggled between recording brilliant original music and performing in the hospital's annual minstrel show."

Judging by the extensive bibliography Ramsey's Jr.'s research was absolutely thorough, in academic terms. However, he draws so heavily from other published academic sources that at times the book reads like a synthesis of existing ideas. Furthermore, the distinct lack of interviews conducted in putting together this book seems odd. It seems like an oversight not to have interviewed saxophonists Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
and Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
, trumpeter Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
or drummer Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
b.1926
drums
—all of whom played and recorded with Powell.

There's much to admire in Ramsey Jr.'s work, and more than a little food for thought. Nevertheless, the fact that Powell tends to flit in and out of the narrative only compounds the notion of the pianist as an enigmatic, somewhat elusive figure. The author's academic lucidity tends to outshine the supposed main focus of the narrative—the amazing Bud Powell.


comments powered by Disqus