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Eternity by Bud Powell

Eternity contains some of the last recordings of Bud Powell specifically those the his friend Francis Paudras recorded in his apartments in Paris from 1961 to 1964, making available some of Powell’s work when he was inaccessible to American audiences, when he had fewer opportunities to record and when his health started its final decline. It turns out that Paudras, as is well known by now, allowed Powell to perform late at night in his apartment as he recognized the importance of Powell’s talent, much as the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter did when she became the benefactress for Thelonious Monk in his final years. And as Powell’s health started to fail and he was admitted to a tuberculosis ward in Paris, Paudras was there to take care of him before Powell moved back to the United Stated in 1964. Powell passed aware in July, 1966.

Not only did Paudras give Powell a place for expressing himself on the piano, but also he recorded many of the sessions as Powell performed only for himself. And those tapes were turned over to Powell’s daughter, Celia, who knew that she had some valuable raw material that awaited discovery by the larger public but was unsure how to market them. Then she met Jessica Shih, who shared the same devotion to the project, and the result now is Eternity, a carefully selected series of solo performances recorded in Paudras’ home.

Listeners who are accustomed to Powell’s speed and irrepressible energy, which influenced a generation of jazz pianists, will find Powell to be more explorative in Paris, especially when he was alone without the prodding of other musicians. Indeed, the music of Eternity is contemplative, and the dark, slow "’Round Midnight" is especially appropriate, considering the time of night when Paudras recorded Powell. In addition, Powell was into exploring Monk’s music particularly during his years in Paris.

But some of the other songs that Powell wrote during this period reflected his concerns and contemplative moods, such as "Blues For Bouffémont," which he wrote while he was in the tuberculosis sanitarium. While "Joshua’s Blues" and "Shaw ‘Nuff" are reminders of Powell’ trailblazing work in helping to establish the language of bebop, "Mary’s Improvisation" consists of mostly dramatic sustained chords and arpeggios based on the harmony of "Tenderly."

But consideration must be allowed for the circumstances of the recording: (1) that Powell wasn’t playing for an audience, only for himself; (2) that Paudras’ piano was not concert-quality, to say the least, though an Erard baby grand; and (3) the recording technology on Paudras’ Ferrograph tape recorder was not state of the art. Nevertheless, Eternity includes valuable last recordings of Bud Powell, without accompaniment or enhancement, that lay bare his concerns during the years he lived in Paris, recorded from 1961 to 1964.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bud Powell
  • CD Title: Eternity
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Piadrum Records
  • Tracks: Spring Is Here, Shaw ‘Nuff, A Night In Tunisia, Joshua’s Blues, ‘Round Midnight, I Hear Music, Someone To Watch Over Me, I’ll Keep Loving You, Idaho, Blues For Bouffémont, Deep Night, But Beautiful, Mary’s Improvisation
  • Musicians: Bud Powell (piano)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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