Bud Powell and Don Byas : A Tribute to Cannonball

These three recordings are a testament to the restorative powers of Bud Powell’s European sojourn. Recorded within a three day span in December ’61, A Tribute To Cannonball and A Portrait Of Thelonious also argue that the pianist had considerable stamina. Together with a crisply remastered audiophile edition of Bouncing With Bud (recorded in April ’62 and originally issued on Storyville), they offer an invaluable insight into the autumnal glories of Powell’s early ’60s output.

Powell’s session with Swing Era tenor titan Don Byas was produced by Cannonball Adderley (who also supervised Powell’s homage to Monk), whose only miscue was suggesting a staple of his own quintet book-Duke Pearson’s hard bop cooker “Jeanine”-which is the most tentatively rendered piece of the set. Otherwise, the date is a fascinating study of how Powell highlights the pre-echoes of bop in Byas’ style, and how the tenorist buttresses Powell’s roots in the music of the ’30s. They are totally in command of the demanding fast tempos on “Just One of Those Things” and “Cherokee,” racing through the choruses with precision and flair. Their “I Remember Clifford” is one of the most sanctified takes on the classic ever recorded. And, they have spunk to spare on “Good Bait.” Throughout the proceedings, Powell and Byas enjoy the collegial rapport of Kenny Clarke and Pierre Michelot (the bassist also contributes two solid compositions: “Jackie My Little Cat,” a languorous ballad, and “Myth,” a streamlined blowing vehicle). Trumpeter Idrees Sulieman fattens up the ensembles on four cuts and holds his own as a soloist.

Powell’s portrait of Monk does not necessarily argue that his and Monk’s styles were closer than usually accepted; it simply establishes that Powell could play in a semi-Monkish vein when interpreting his friend’s compositions. On each of the Monk pieces included in the program Powell was unfailingly faithful in his placement of the jabbed chords, splayed arpeggios and rhythmically-charged silences; yet, while “Thelonious” is aptly effervescent and “Off Minor” evokes the playfulness of Powell’s ’47 version, Powell’s occasionally overwrought attack on “Ruby, My Dear” and “Monk’s Mood” result in jarring, dark and ponderous readings. The remaining five tracks (including an alternate of “Squatty” taken at a considerable faster pace than the original) are almost exclusively constructed of Powell’s patented runs and flourishes. “There Will Never Be Another You” is Powell at his suave, sophisticated best. Again, Michelot and Clarke effortlessly shade and highlight Powell’s performances.

Monk spectrum is also well represented on Bouncing With Bud. Powell takes “52nd Street Theme” and “Move” at a brisk pace, the latter for an impressive 11 choruses, while his first recording of “Straight, No Chaser” features an often incisive and uncluttered approach to the blues. The program’s other highlights include strong takes on “Rifftide,” “Hot House,” and the title tune. This album’s version of “I Remember Clifford” is solid, but ultimately doesn’t equal the version with Byas. Powell receives able support from drummer William Schiopffe and a 15-year-old Niels Henning-¯rsted Pederson, whose prodigiousness is particularly evident on his four-chorus solo on “Straight, No Chaser.” Despite these assets, however, this set has slightly less luster than the others.