Written by Peter Pullman from WBGO-FM
Ever wish you could travel back in time to New York’s 52nd Street — circa 1950, during the heyday of bebop — and whisper into Charlie Parker, or Dizzy Gillespie, or Thelonious Monk’s ear, and ask them: Who was their favorite pianist to listen to? They would all give the same answer: Bud Powell.
The story of Powell’s extraordinary genius is often fantastically rendered in jazz lore. His life was chaotic and improbable, but more often misunderstood. Most often, his music was mesmerizing. In the new book Wail: The Life of Bud Powell, biographer Peter Pullman breaks down the myths and mysteries, revealing the complicated, sometimes tragic social circumstances that conspired to vanquish Powell’s art. But the book also emphasizes the brilliance of a desperately uncompromising artist.
Pullman recently stopped by WBGO to celebrate what would have been Powell’s 88th birthday, joining historian Dan Morgenstern to share notable recordings and excerpts from his book. Here’s a list of Pullman’s five essential Bud Powell recordings.