Friday, December 03, 2004


Mr. Robinson starts work in Brooklyn

Battle of the bop piano titans!

Bud Powell, Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Thelonious Monk, Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Earl "Bud" Powell and Thelonious Sphere Monk (the greatest name for a human being ever) were the defining postwar jazz pianists, the men who brought the innovations of bebop to the keyboard, and whose influence imbued the playing of all their successors.

Monk was a mentor of sorts to Powell--Monk was seven years older, and, in his role as house pianist at the club Minton's during the war, had supported Powell when other players wanted Powell kicked out of the club. While similar in ways, they more often seemed to be two different states of matter--Powell's playing is kinetic, astonishingly fast and fluid; Monk's is often slower, rhythmic and willing to use fewer notes. The jazz historian Ted Gioia calls Powell a horizontal player, and Monk a vertical one, if that makes a bit of sense.

A good place to start is their separate takes on Gershwin's "Nice Work." It is an early performance for both, coming from Powell's first session as a leader and Monk's second. (If interested in how the original Gershwin goes, listen to Fred Astaire in a sample here). Powell tears out of the gate with a string of notes, pounds out the chorus at breakneck speed and races out the song from there; Monk cracks the melody apart and plays with its parts for a while.

Powell's performance was recorded on January 10, 1947, with Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums; Monk's (an alternate take I prefer to the officially released take) on October 24, with Gene Ramey on bass and Art Blakey on drums. You can find Powell on this compilation and Monk on the fantastic Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1.

What's your vote, Bud or Monk?

Note from the Management: I’ve been remiss in crediting fellow blogs, many of which have sent viewers my way in the past weeks. You will see most of these sites on the blog roll, but all deserve an extra pinch of hype.

The Tofu Hut, Moistworks and Soul Sides are the reasons I was inspired to begin this mp3 blog nonsense. Other favorites include Mystical Beast (don't miss his recent posts on Skyband, a forgotten group that also served as a strange pop cultural crossroads), #1 Songs in Heaven (an Englishman whose knowledge of American soul dwarves that of most Americans, including this American), Keep the Coffee Coming, and Big Rock Candy Mountain, who currently is doing a great run of Christmas songs.

You may consider Honey Where You Been So Long the better, happier half of this site—while I slowly trudge away from the past, Honey stays with some of the finest American music ever made—the blues, gospel and country of the ‘20s and ‘30s.

Benn loxo du taccu
, with its resources of wonderful African music, deserves a government grant of some sort. Oddio Overplay has some of the strangest, most enjoyable music around.

If any latecomers are upset about missing some of the earlier tracks I posted (I know there are Andrews Sisters junkies out there by the score), email me. A very limited offer. Happy weekend.

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