Bepbop: Bud Powell

Date of Birth: September 27 1924

Date of Death: 1924- July 31, 1966

Where did they come from?

He was born in Harlem, New York.



      • Powell’s father was a stride pianist (a jazz piano style that arose from ragtime players).  

      • Powell started classical piano lessons at the age of five. 

      • At ten years of age, Powell showed interest in swing music that could be heard all over the neighborhood. 

    Early to mid-1940s


        •  Thelonious Monk played at Uptown House.  When Monk met Powell at 10,he introduced Powell to musicians starting to play bebop at Minton’s.

        • Monk was a resident pianist who presented Powell as his protégé (pro-to-ge “musical mentor”).  Their mutual affection grew, and Monk became Powell’s most significant mentor.  Powell eagerly experimented with Monk’s idea.  Monk’s composition “In Walked Bud” is a tribute to their time together in Harlem.

        • After the last recording, when the band finished, Powell wandered near Broad Street Station and was apprehended, drunk, by the private railroad police. 

      Hospitalization (1947-1948)


          • He was beaten in a bar fight (Powell was hit over his eye with a bottle) and incarcerated briefly by the city police.  Ten days after his release, his headaches persisted, and he was hospitalized at Bellevue (Creedmoor State Hospital), an observation ward, and then in a state psychiatric hospital sixty miles away.  

          • Powell adjusted to being in the hospital, though in psychiatric interviews, he expressed feelings of persecution founded in racism.

          • From February to April 1948, he received electroconvulsive therapy after an outburst, which may have been prompted by learning from his girlfriend that she was pregnant with their child.  

          • The electroconvulsive therapy was considered ineffective, so the doctors gave him a second series of treatments in May.  

          • He was released in October 1948.

          • After a brief hospitalization in early 1949, he made several recordings within the next two and a half years.

        What Impact has he made?


            • He was one of the first pianists to play lines conceived initially by bebop horn players.

            • Powell accepted the functions of the left.  A hand where he played short hits of two-three-note chords while he supported his chords with single lines with his right hand. 

            • He created the accepted approach for modern jazz for the next 20 years. 

          ****In 1963, He contracted tuberculosis**

          He died in 1966 of tuberculosis.

          Significance of artists


              • Powell had the speed and grace to keep up with Parker and Gillespie in soloing. 

            Famous band/group 


                • Pianist for the swing orchestra of Cootie Williams


                  • Powell was the pianist on a handful of Williams’s recording dates in 1944.


                    •  His job with Williams was terminated in Philadelphia in January 1945.


                      • The first Blue Note session in August 1949 included Fats Navarro, Sonny Rollins, Tommy Potter, and Roy Haynes, and the compositions “Bouncing with Bud” and “Dance of the Infidels.” 

                      • The second Blue Note session in 1951 was a trio with Curley Russell and Max Roach and included “Parisian Thoroughfare” and “Un Poco Loco.”

                    Opinions on music

                    Musicologist Guthrie Ramsey wrote of the session that “Powell proves himself the equal of any of the other beboppers in technique, versatility, and feeling.” 

                    More interesting Facts


                        • His performance during 1964-1966 was affected by his alcoholism and his unbalanced emotions.

                        •  He was hospitalized in New York due to erratic behavior and self-neglect.

                        • On July 31st, 1966, Powell died of tuberculosis, malnutrition, and alcoholism.

                        • The priest came to the hospital to pray for his sins to attempt for him to go to heaven, “the last rights of the catholic church.”

                      What's your password?

                      Login to your account

                      This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.