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Bud Powell


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(1924 – 1966)

Earl Rudolph “Bud” Powell (September 27, 1924 – July 31, 1966) was one of the most influential pianists in the history of . Along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie he was instrumental in the development of , and his virtuosity as a pianist led many to call him “the Charlie Parker of the ”.

Powell was perhaps the first pianist to vocalize on the piano, meaning that he transfered his vocalized improvisations directly through his hands to the instrument. This gave his music a deep connection to time, which is an artifact of the human voice. Previously, horn players were more likely to express their improvisations vocally, as the mouth and breath are directly tied to the performance of horn players.

Powell suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder, and in November 1947, Powell was admitted to Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, where he stayed for more than a year, receiving electroconvulsive therapy which caused severe memory loss. The young Jackie McLean and Sonny Rollins became friendly with Powell on his release from the hospital, and Powell recommended McLean to Miles Davis. However, Powell suffered from mental illness throughout his life, and had a reputation for his strange behaviour. In fact his problems, exacerbated by a beating from the police in 1945 for being disorderly, could all be attributed to being a manic depressive, although his illness was almost certainly a key driver of his immense creative talent.


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