Few musicians would argue that Bud Powell was the ultimate bebop pianist. “I think there was a time when Bud Powell was playing more than Charlie Parker,” Art Blakey told Art Taylor in Notes and Tones—the thought of which is borderline terrifying. If you haven’t checked him out before, there are many places to start: the ebullient “Bouncing with Bud,” the foreboding “Dance of the Infidels,” the haunted “Glass Enclosure”—possibly a reference to his institutionalization—to say nothing of the swinging, mathematical majesty of “Bud on Bach.”
Where does 1962 Stockholm/Oslo fit into the equation? Well, Powell had a tragic outcome, dying in 1966 of a litany of physical and mental maladies, and his late-period work tends to be treasured more by collectors than listeners. But judging anyone’s work for not being their very best makes music a duller place. Even in a tailspin, Powell was still often excellent—and these previously unreleased tracks from his later years are worth seeking out.
All that said, though the trio performances of tunes like “Hot House,” “Straight No Chaser,” and “I Remember Clifford” are stellar, the recording quality isn’t great. That couldn’t have been avoided; a physician and jazz fan taped the Stockholm portion from a radio broadcast. The resultant muddiness—coupled with the fact it’s a later offering—makes 1962 Stockholm/Oslo a subtler pleasure for those already in the know. Not your first stop, but perhaps your third or fourth.
Still, this music could have easily not existed at all—and literally anything this man played is worth hearing at least once. While bumping modern-day Powell tributes, like Ethan Iverson’s Bud Powell in the 21st Century, make time for the deeper passages in the book of Bud.