News:   Stereophile - 2006 Records To Die For

"Eternity" is selected by Thomas Conrad as one of the 2006 Records 2 Die 4.



Cadence Magazine 

My anticipation of this project involved a unique mixture of excitement and apprehension, an unsettling mix brought into focus by the opening performance "Spring is Here."  Excitement because, like the project's finale "Mary's Improvisation," "Spring is Here" evokes Powell's prime with flashes of his unique artistry in runs that are an uncanny fusion of Tatum and Monk, confirming how the stride piano tradition could still flower into fresh, unexpected forms.  Apprehension because the piano is badly out of tune, the sonics are poor and the performance terminates abruptly in mid-flow at 2:30.  This abrupt termination is upsetting, not least because it is emblematic of Powell's fractured life.  Although he was the one contemporary keyboard player to rival Charlie Parkers' velocity and daring invention, the Bebop pieces here like "Shaw "Nuff" and "A Night in Tunisia" only serve to reveal his stark decline as he fumbles through their tricky changes.  Although it is great to hear unissued originals like "Joshua's Blues" and the somber majesty that Powell generates out of his ponderous reflections on Monk's "Round Midnight," the lasting delight of these performances is to hear Powell's loving engagement with the swing tradition.  He creates an inspired improvisation during the upbeat "I Hear Music," while his cool variations in "Blues for Bouffemont" bring to mind Ellington's "Rocks in my Bed."  Powell lavishes lovely variations on ballads like "But Beautiful" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" and swings with audible zest during the upbeat "Idaho" and an inspired "Deep Night."  One word of caution is that Powell's habit of unison singing can detract from the intricate variations that his fingers create.  In the case of "Deep Night,"  this is a great pity as his humming in tongues detracts from some spirited and inventive stride variations.  Imperfect as these performances are, no matter how startling and disturbing they sound at times, this project confirms the wonderful healing power of music.  These raw home recordings show how music can also be the life force.  If you do not possess much Powell, there are better places to start, but long-time admirers will find plenty to savor here. 

- Cadence Magazine - David Lewis   6/05

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Jazz USA 

"Eternity" comprises pianist Bud Powell's last recorded work from the early 1960's, compliments of writer Francis Paudra's piano that Bud played during his last years. Fortunately, again, Paudra's tape recorder was running during these 'purely Bud' sessions. We also have to thank Producer Jessica Shih and Celia Powell, Bud's daughter, Co-producer of this magnificent compilation of Bud Powell's music.

"Eternity" finds Bud revisiting classics like "Spring Is Here", that so appropriately opens this CD. "'Shaw nuff' is the paradigm of classic bebop. "Night In Tunisia" is treated gently, the way one treats a trusted friend, while "I'll Keep Loving You" is a deeply wistful statement. We even hear the pianist's voice, announcing several tunes with touching innocence such as "Deep Night" and "But Beautiful". And Bud's "Round Midnight", a personal favorite of mine, draws a sigh from me at each listening.

"Eternity" is a testimonial to Powell's lyricism, enhanced by his amazing ability to mix key signatures within one phrase, as in "I Hear Music". Bud's expression possesses an uncanny poetic grace (to echo Jessica Shih's comment) in turning a musical phrase. Note "Someone to Watch Over Me". I must point out that Mary's Improvisation (Tenderly, improvised) and Joshua's Blues, another great bebop treatment, are extraordinarily special. They're named for Celia's children.

Bud Powell's "Eternity" performances are a beckoning glimpse into the oft-hazy vistas of "jazz" at it's most classic -- meaning its purest -- especially as rendered by this undisputed master. Bud retained the delicate intricacies of his musical 'voice' even with all the stuff he endured in this life. (Read Bud's poem, "Eternity", in the liner notes.) Then listen to Idaho and Blues for Bouffemont to feel the highs and lows of his musical emotion. The admittedly less than ideal condition of the piano further attests to Bud's artistic fortitude. This collection of pianist Bud Powell's music is truly beyond mere words. "Eternity" simply must be experienced. It is its own reward.

Co-Producer, Celia Powell deserves the last word here.

"This CD emphasizes the power of one spirit driven to live through his music. His mission was realized, and his music has given life to me, my children and his fans, who have kept him very much alive….. As always, his creations of new improvisations show he is not finished, for there is more to be said. The infinite power of my father never ceases to amaze me. I am so glad I have Someone to Watch Over Me…." Celia Powell

- Phyllis A. Lodge   3/05


AllAboutJazz NewYork 

The great Bud Powell casts a very long shadow over all jazz piano players, not to mention  most melodic/harmonic improvisers, regardless of what instrument they play.  His best recordings are simply indispensable.  However, it is also known to jazz fans that Powell's life "unraveled", after what today would be called a hate crime brought on a crescendo of mental illness and physical damage.  Those knowledgeable fans also know that there are quite a few records made from the later years of his life that are sad to listen to because these factors had negative effects on his music. 

"Spring is Here" opens the CD (a Rodgers and Hart composition, though strangely no composers are given credit anywhere on the CD) and unfortunately displays some very sloppy playing, perhaps the sloppiest of all the tracks.  Yet on "Shaw 'Nuff" and "A Night in Tunisia" there are moments of brilliance.  Bud swings hard all the way through both!

"Joshua's Blues" is touted as a never-recorded Bud Powell original, thought it's basically a "simple" blues in Bb.  Bud's playing, however, is beautiful and grooving' hard and this might have been the wiser choice as the CD opener.  When Powell's melodic thinking is on, it's a marvel to hear him connect phrase after phrase... not only all the right notes, but you can dance to it!  The not-oft heard "I Hear Music" (Burton Lane and Frank Loesser) is given a joyous rendition.  We are given a glimpse of Mr. Powell's sense of harmonic surprise as well as the as finger slips.

This CD will have an emotional resonance with lovers of Bud Powell.  These piano solos were recorded mostly at the home of Francis Paudras, who offered a "safe haven" for Mr. Powell during his stay in Paris ('59-'62).  The tapes were willed to Celia Powell (Bud's daughter) and it seems that her decision to release these performances is not casual, as stated in the liners: "In light of much controversy, I believed there was still an audience for the music and wanted to find a way for Bud Powell's fans and would-be-fans to be exposed to his last works."  Also included in the CD booklet is a poem "Eternity", written by Bud from the hospital just before he died in 1966. 

How could this CD not be interesting to jazz fans? Bud Powell was one of the "inventors" of bebop and his musical thinking seems to be always inspired, never imitative. 


- AllAboutJazz NewYork - Francis Lo Kee   3/05

- -  Francis Lo Kee   5/05



JazzTimes Magazine 

(reviewed along with another Bud Powell release)

These two CDs are not record albums in the traditional sense but crumpled, faded postcards from the Other Side, arriving unannounced in one's mailbox with 40-year-old postmarks.  

The Chicago critic J. B. Figi once described the landscape of Bud Powell as "Leaden earth, thorn trees, strange hues at the horizon...and in the center of that blasted heath, Bud, a gnarled gnomic tree through which the wind twists song." 

Eternity, with its distorted, distant sound, delivers the gnarled tree of Powell's spiritual landscape with more inescapable truth than any of his professional recordings.  Eternity was culled by producer Jessica Shih and Powell's daughter Celia from homemade tapes of Francis Paudras, the man who is remembered as the pianist's devoted friend and protector during his final years in Paris.  He also recorded hours of Powell's solo piano performances on an unreliable English Ferrograph tape machine - and they are chilling.  Powell picks his way through "Round Midnight" and "Spring Is Here" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" in a ponderous process of searching and insistence.  He blocks out each shape until it looms there, not exactly music, more like pure human suffering ennobled and transcended by the act of its direct expression.

...But the unforgettable moments on both of these albums contain only Powell, alone with the songs that the wind twists through him.

- JazzTimes - Thomas Conrad   1/05



This is a CD of Bud Powell playing solo for a friend, a selection of consistent performances deficient mainly in the sound quality of the last couple tracks, as well as some occasional slight thinning of the recorded piano tone. It's of definite individual musical interest. Late Powell is remarkably solid, individual, with his own solo technique that young men might learn from. The occasional, hardly-audible rhythmic support simply reinforced the pianist's internal rhythmic pulse.

"Spring Is Here" has quotes or echoes of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" at the start, plus some Tatum runs, until Powell gets into a slow stride vamp, or its chordal equivalent. Whereupon the tape runs out. He certainly hadn't finished that one, but the sudden stop doesn't happen again. "Shaw 'Nuff" is delightful, with the left hand doing I couldn't say what. It really keeps the bouncy tempo and bottom end of the music going, while Powell maintains a nice pace in the left, with a few very rapid darting phrases thrown in. There's a more obvious underlying rhythm to "A Night in Tunisia", which is distinguished by Powell's ability to shadow his right hand playing with a bass part, coining a nice two-handed pianistic fullness -- this is not top-heavy or top-overlight stuff, and he maintains momentum. "Joshua's Blues" benefits somewhat from Francis Paudras's un-intrusive time-keeping on brushes. It's a standard Bud Powell sort of blues.

"Round Midnight" has a lower sound level, and like the next two titles, comes from 1962. The playing has more obvious fluency, with a couple of thoughts of playing fancier runs which just get stopped. The fluency abates as the pianist goes into an interesting variation. This performance is an interesting stripping down of the tune, which has an underlying slow 'oom-pah' the left hand hardly ever completes, the 'pah' being variously implied by right hand harmonies.

The chorded bits opening "I Hear Music" have a lot of energy. Powell sounds nicely relaxed going into a linear bit in the right hand, managing to keep a contra-dance in the left, and happily the barking sound of his singalong is muffled. He rolls back into the chordal performance of the theme and plays out in far from commonplace style.

The Tatum style comes back in "Someone to Watch Over Me", where Powell sounds as if he's rehearsing an introduction with shifts of chording duties between the respective fingers of each hand. It's a nice into-and-out-of-tempo ballad, the playing gathering pace as it swells into the vocal line's tune and breathing into a pause where the accompaniment would normally fill in. There seems to be some joking in the thoroughness with which the gentle single note runs are played, not least the self-parodic one inserted in the finale of the performance, which plays out with the opening of the Kentucky anthem and a smile.

He sounds like a tone parallel to Thelonious Monk on several items; the same sort of expressiveness but not the Monkian harmonies. "I'll Keep Loving You" (1961 again) has him playing with both hands and doing the work with the inside fingers of his chording hands.

"Idaho" proceeds at a brisk walk, cheerfully, as if remembering the great Blue Note performance of the tune on an LP with Curtis Fuller, where Powell went into full-blown stride piano. His own much newer "Blues for Bouffement" (1960) has a lot of traditional features and a weight of sound not exactly common among pianists. George Foreman plays Ray Charles? He gets a great ringing sound with his address to the keyboard, even playing around with 1940s R&B licks.

"The name of this tune is 'Deep Night'", he says, before launching into an upper-medium-tempo performance which suffers more than anything else here from his vocalisations and some tape problems. His means of keeping things moving are various, and include some stride episodes. The same 1963 tape produced a "But Beautiful" which jollies along before a chordal theme statement in his old style, with a few trademarks endearingly echoing his Blue Note recordings of fifty years ago (fifteen years before this performance was recorded) quite closely.

The final title is "Mary's Improvisation" from 1961. Powell plays a lot of piano, with some whole note runs in the opening, alternating with chording until he's playing so downright orchestral a "Tenderly" that the tape recorder is seriously challenged. The distortion is less with the single notes he uses for an ending. "Ten-der...", and then, after a pause, an incredibly ringing tone "...lee!"

- -  Robert R. Calder   12/04


One Final Note

When Emil Gilels was trying to finish his Beethoven sonata recording project before his untimely death in 1985, reviewers pointed to an increasing renouncement of virtuosity in favor of exploration of internal voices and textural concerns.  It was as if Gilels was attempting to strip all artifice away from his performances so that “the composer’s voice” could be heard plainly.

Much the same can be said of Bud Powell’s final Paris years as represented by these previously unpublished solo piano recordings.  In Powell’s case, declining health certainly played a substantial role in his altered approach to the keyboard, but illness of all sorts does not explain everything.  It might be said that Powell’s guiding spirit of the period was Thelonious Monk, who is invoked on several of these privately recorded performances.

Monk imbues the fragmentary opening track, “Spring Is Here”, so completely that a listener would be forgiven for citing Monk as the player.  The deep resounding chords, all at about the same dynamic level, and the softer runs, arpeggios, and other embellishments all point to early-60s solo Monk.  A beautifully stirring version of “’Round Midnight” presents a similarly poignant homage to Powell’s old friend, and the exploratory rendition of “I Hear Music” speaks to Monk’s quirkily transcendental sense of harmony, even in contexts that do not directly reference Monk.

In “Joshua’s Blues”, Monk’s “In Walked Bud” is quoted, and the disc’s final improvisation demonstrates just how much Monk’s musical language had come to pervade Powell’s own.  It is as if Powell’s 1949 recording of “Cherokee”, with its intricate counterpoint and adventurous substitutions, had been shorn of its melody, slowed down, and expanded, each harmony being in need of arpeggiated reassertion, most assuredly a result of Powell’s association with one of Bebop’s elder statesmen.

Powell’s prime is at least partially in evidence in several tracks on this collection.  “Shaw ‘Nuff” is as close as he comes to recapturing his fleet-fingered youth, but even here, more attention is paid to underlying harmonic structure than to melodic invention.  “Night in Tunisia” shows Powell eschewing the inherent difficulty of transitional passages and sticking to a simpler almost stride-like interpretive plan.  These adaptations do not take away from any enjoyment afforded by these performances, which is considerable.  It is simply a different and possibly more mature aesthetic.

Recording quality is second-rate, as is to be expected—these are Francis Paudras’ home recordings, some before a small audience and some not.  However, they are invaluable documents of this period of Powell’s slow decline; they should be heard in tandem with the emerging series on Fantasy, and all these recordings together must now be considered essential listening for anyone wishing to completely understand Bud Powell’s legacy.

- One Final -  Marc Medwin   12/04


Jazz Improv Magazine  

Eternity is one of those concepts that can be hard to wrap your mind around, if you really think about it.  How can anything in this world last for eternity?  If we're to believe the scientists and their warnings of global warming and other ecological damage, the world itself won't last for eternity.  And aren't we trying to figure out what to do if an when the planet becomes uninhabitable?  Some things, however, are timeless.  I'd like to think that one day generations from now, people (wherever they may be) will be listening to the music of the jazz masters of the America of the nineteen forties and fifties, planet Earth.  

Sadly, some of the most eternally listenable of the jazz masters are the ones whose lives were the polar opposite of eternity.  Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Clifford Brown... the list of musical geniuses in the field of jazz who left this world entirely too early goes on and on.  One of these tragic cases is that of Bud Powell, the virtuoso of the jazz piano and be-bop pioneer who died in 1966, at forty-one years of age.  

Eternity is an interesting new collection of Bud Powell's solo piano performances.  The tracks from the CD were recorded in the Paris apartment of Powell's friend Francis Paudras, who often opened his door to the pianist during his trips to Paris.  All of the tracks were recorded during the last three years of Powell's life, and the latest were recorded just months before his untimely death.  Included are classics such as "A Night in Tunisia', "Round Midnight" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" as well as originals like "Blues for Boufemont", written during Powell's stay in the sanatorium of the same name, and "Joshua's Blues", which makes its only recorded appearance on this release. 

The recording quality of the CD is less than perfect, but crystal clear audio is not at all what Eternity is about.  Rather, this new release is about the preservation of a genius' last gifts to the world, for that is truly what each and every Bud Powell performance was.  While the man's life was troubled, tragic and short, his music will live on for eternity.  

- Jazz Improv Magazine - Dave Miele   V5N2  

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.

- -  Don Williamson   11/04  

Bud Powell was a troubled soul, whose mental illness was likely due to a beating in the head by police, though it wasn’t helped by his fondness for alcohol. Not long after he left to live in Paris, Francis Paudras, who not only looked after him but also invited him to live in his apartment, befriended him. Paudras greatly encouraged the troubled pianist and made private recordings of Powell playing on the baby grand piano in his apartment on numerous occasions. Although a number of these recordings were issued by Mythic Sound and Pablo, this collection is previously unissued from tapes passed on to Celia Powell (the pianist’s daughter) following Paudras’ suicide. While the recording quality is uneven at times, with occasional extraneous noise from outside the apartment and some performances incomplete, the instrument is in better shape than many nightclub pianos Powell likely played in the U.S. earlier in his career. Yet his improvised introductions are often elaborate and he doesn’t always wail along as he did on many of his major label sessions made for American labels. Among the highlights within this compilation are “A Night in Tunisia,” a lovely “Someone to Watch Over Me” (which succeeds in spite of some flutter in the tape), along with a previously undocumented original, the delightful “Joshua’s Blues.”  “Blues for Bouffemont” was written while Powell was treated in a sanatorium for tuberculosis; this slow blues more than proves the pianist still had something to offer jazz fans in spite of his failing health. Paudrus quietly accompanies Powell on brushes on a few tracks, keeping good time. This CD is highly recommended and I hope there are more recordings in Celia Powell’s care for future release.

 - -  Ken Dryden   10/04  

These solo piano sessions by Bud Powell were recorded between 1961 and 1964 in Paris at the home of his friend, Francis Paudras. The recordings, while made informally and never released, have preserved the sound and the spirit that the pianist espoused as a pioneer of bebop and as an influential force on many aspiring jazz artists. Like most dedicated pianists, Powell played out of a love for the music. Among the song titles, you'll recognize his grandchildren's names, as well as the name of a tuberculosis sanatorium where he received treatment. Ever expressive, he played the piano in the comfort of his friend's home with no strings attached. His performances stand informal and relaxed.

“I Hear Music” and “Shaw 'Nuff” swing with the driving bebop spirit that we recall from Powell's earlier collaborations. “Joshua's Blues,” “Mary's Improvisation” and “Blues for Bouffémont,” on the other hand, reveal a different side of the artist: his loving affection. Deep passion drove him on these introspective adventures. Similarly, slow and meaningful interpretations of “But Beautiful,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “'Round Midnight” offer proof of the pianist's deep love for his music.

Powell's voice can be heard clearly as he announces several songs and sings along in his unique manner. He enjoyed the creative spirit that drove him. The apex of his influence on aspiring bebop pianists was his blazing fast speed. With Eternity, we get to enjoy both his virtuosic displays and his compassionate musings—up close and personal.

 - - Jim Santella   10/04



All Music Guide  

These previously unreleased solo piano performances were recorded by photographer Francis Paudras in France and are from an extensive tape collection owned by Celia Powell, Bud's daughter. Although Bud Powell's playing was erratic during the era, he is generally excellent form on the 13 solos. The piano is not always perfectly in-tune but it is listenable and the recording quality is better than expected. While Powell's ballad renditions are intense, he sounds joyful on some of the uptempo pieces, particularly “Joshua's Blues." Other highlights include “A Night In Tunisia," “Someone To Watch Over Me," “Blues For Bouffemont" and “But Beautiful." This is a valuable addition to Bud Powell's discography and is well worth picking up.

 - All Music Guide - Scott Yanow   10/04



The Escambia Sun-Press  

Bud Powell was a powerful pianist who came up in the Bop era and is usually spoken of as the equal of such giants as Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.  In fact, one of Monk's tunes is entitled, "In Walked Bud."

There are other recordings of Powell which are better from the point of view a recording quality, done at a time when he was at the peak of his pianistic prowess.  On this CD, these rare selections were recorded privately when he was in France during 1961-1964.  They were recorded by Powell's friend and benefactor, Francis Paudras in Paudras' home.  These selections are more reflective than intense.  Although Powell was in failing health, the recordings are of rare beauty.  

The movie " Round Midnight" starring saxophonist Dexter Gordon was similar to some of the events in Powell's life.  The protagonist is self-exiled to France.  He has difficulty with the small details of life and is befriended by a young Frenchman who helps him over some of the rough spots and returns to the U.S. and unhealthy surroundings and dies shortly thereafter.  The movie, for which Dexter Gordon was nominated for an academy award as leading actor, was excellently done with a great cast of musicians.  Gordon's musical and acting performance was all the more poignant in that he, himself, was dying of lung cancer.

Powell returned to the U.S. in 1964 and died at age 44 in 1966.  Cause of death was attributed to tuberculosis, alcoholism, liver disease and malnutrition.

We appreciate producer Jessica Shih and co-Producer Celia Powell (Bud's daughter) for sharing these rare, private recordings with the public.  

- The Escambia Sun-Press - Norman Vickers   10/04