Go Live In Essen With Bud Powell

Read The Original Liner Notes To A Live Jazz Powerhouse

On December 18th 2017

Buddy

When the store opens this week, we’ll be issuing a special edition of Org Music’s reissue of Bud Powell’s The Essen Jazz Festival Concert. The album captures Bud “The Charlie Parker Of The Piano” Powell—one of bebop’s best pianists—at his live peak in 1960, six years before he’d die of tuberculosis. Here, read the original liner notes from the album.

In early April, 1960, a large-scale jazz festival took place in Essen, one of the principal industrial cities of the Ruhr district in Western Germany. This city is notable not only for the Krupp works, but also for its enormous concert hall, the “Grugahalle,” an architectural and acoustical wonder with a seating capacity of no less than 8000.

In this hall were staged the two concerts that made up the third annual jazz festival in Essen, the “Essen Jazz Tage 1960” – on Saturday, April the 2nd, a concert of modern jazz; on the following day a concert devoted to various aspects of traditional jazz. This record captures some of the most memorable performances of the first of these concerts.

A German group, the Michael Naura Quintet, opened the concert and was followed by, in turn, a trio composed of Bud Powell, Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clarke; Helen Merrill, accompanied by Pettiford; Coleman Hawkins with Powell-Pettiford-Clarke; the Dave Brubeck Quartet; and the Quincy Jones Orchestra.

Of these, the trio of Powell, Pettiford and Clarke, and the quartet with Hawkins were recorded for release on LP. However, contractual difficulties have, for more than three years, prevented the publication of this record, which has been awaited with impatience by the many people who heard about the project. Even though jazz musicians rarely remember their professional activities too well, both Kenny Clarke and Coleman Hawkins have recently said that they remember the concert very clearly and Hawkins even recalled two of the numbers he played. But in a way this is no wonder, since it rarely happens that musicians of this importance are brought together.

Joachim Ernst Berendt, the prominent German jazz critic, acted as master of ceremonies, and in his introduction to the trio he pointed out that Powell, Pettiford and Clarke may be considered the fathers of their respective instruments in modern jazz – Powell has been the most influential jazz pianist since the war, Pettiford carried on the innovations of Jimmy Blanton and became a source of inspiration to most of the younger bass players, and Kenny Clarke founded the modern conception of jazz drumming. To have these three musicians united in a trio for the first and last time promises to be the unique experience it is.

At the time of the concert, Powell, Pettiford and Clarke were also the most prominent of the American jazz expatriates in Europe. Pettiford had been playing mostly in Germany, Austria and Denmark since coming to Europe in 1958, while Powell and Clarke had mainly been resident in Paris, Clarke since 1956, Powell since 1959. As this is being written, Powell has had extended engagements in Scandinavia. Oscar Pettiford died in Denmark five months after the Essen festival and this record will be treasured by the many who still miss him.

The album is not on Spotify, so the best you can do is some YouTube clips.

On the first side of the record, after Mr. Berendt’s introduction, the trio opens its part of the programme with the Parker-Gillespie classic, “Shaw ‘nuff,” complete with tricky introduction and finale, and played at the customary fast tempo. Bud Powell is the only soloist in this number.

“Blues In The Closet” is one of Oscar Pettiford’s best known and most frequently recorded themes. It has also been recorded by Bud Powell under the title “Collard Greens and Black-Eye Peas.” Powell and Pettiford share the solos in the present medium-fast version.

Pettiford introduces “Willow Weep For Me,” a ballad feature for his own bass playing and remarkable demonstration, not only of his technical command of the instrument, but also of the passion with which he used to play it. The solo consists of two choruses, with piano and drums entering discreetly at the first bridge.

“John’s Abbey,” a 1958 composition, “written by your favourite, Bud Powell,” as Pettiford puts it, is played almost as fast as “Shaw ‘nuff” and also has Powell as the only soloist. Clarke’s wire-brush accompaniment is certainly worth noting.

“Salt Peanuts” was composed by Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Clarke back in 1941, when they were both playing with Ella Fitzgerald, and even though Pettiford – judging from his introduction – apparently ignores or forgets that Clarke has a part in the theme with its drum-like octave motif, he makes this number a vehicle for Clarke’s drumming.

For the second side of the record, the trio is joined by Coleman Hawkins, who is, to an even larger degree than his partners, the father of his instrument, and who was, before the war, the first of the great American jazz musicians to take up residence in Europe. As far as we remember, Hawkins has only recorded “All The Things You Are” once before, in 1944. This new version is played at a well chosen medium tempo, which also seems to suit Bud Powell in his three choruses. The eight-bar introduction and coda has been a part of this number since the 1945 Gillespie-Parker recording of it.

Another Jerome Kern tune, and one which has been associated with Hawkins for several years, is introduced by himself; “Yesterdays.” Hawkins is the main soloist, relieved by Pettiford for the first half of the third chorus.

“Stuffy” is one of Hawkins’s most famous themes, a typical example of the semi-bop style favoured by him in the middle forties. In fact, he first recorded it in 1945, accompanied by, among others, Oscar Pettiford. In the present version, Hawkins does most of the soloing himself, but Pettiford makes the bridges at the beginning and at the end, Powell plays three choruses, and there is one chorus of four-bar exchanges between Hawkins and Clarke.

A special thank you to Mr. Rolf Schulte-Rohnenberg, the arranger of the concert, for his kind collaboration, without which the recording could not have taken place, and also Mr. Joachim Ernst Berendt, who was helpful in many ways.

– Erik Wiedemann

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