For some time now i’ve been hoping for a chance to post transcriptions and commentary by other people. i have my particular musical tastes which perhaps make the stylistic range of this blog a little narrow. as an antidote, contributions by others may fill in some cracks that i neglect. although the transcription below is in keeping with much of the material i cover, i’m very excited to present it… i met Craig Morrison, a pianist living here in Japan, on a job i was doing in Yokohama and in the course of our conversation we talked a little about this blog. i mentioned my hope to present material from other people and he took it from there. we threw emails back and forth discussing the material and agreeing upon how it should be presented. apart from the transcription itself, i was very keen to have him talk a little about it, which he did nicely. Craig’s words are below…
Here is a great version of the Charlie Parker chestnut “Ornithology” as played by Bud Powell on his seminal 1951 recording THE AMAZING BUD POWELL VOL. 1 The track clocks in at only 2:20, microscopic by today’s recording standards. Bud was a victim of the technology of the times. 10″ 78 rpm records had to be kept at or under 3 minutes. Fortunately for us (and for all jazz listeners) an incredibly fertile musical imagination was pouring out of the man. With no time to spare, Bud was able to spontaneously craft dozens of incredibly strong melodic statements in this one very short solo. For a bit of historical perspective, Powell is THE prototypical bop pianist and was, perhaps, the leading proponent on his instrument in that emerging idiom in its heyday. He, along with all the other canonical figures of the bebop movement, Bird, Diz, Max and Mingus, was a member of the now legendary “greatest concert ever” band, or “Massey Hall” band. In keeping with his reputation and status within of the jazz pantheon, his vocabulary IS bebop. It is pure, undiluted bop, straight from the “voice” of one of the music’s founding fathers.
It is notable that Bud chose not to make even a single full statement of the original melody here. I believe he chose to do so because he wanted to maximize the time in which he could express himself and his musical voice. So, of approximately 100 measures of recorded music, about 80% of what we get is Bud blowing. It’s a good thing too, because he offers up so many great nuggets for our collective study and assimilation. If you’ve listened to much Powell, you’ll know that he was an amazing talent who really did have ideas just gushing out of him, and could sound almost out of control at times. Technically, he was an amazing virtuoso on the instrument. On this recording, there are several instances where this “off the rails” vibe shows itself, via passages of Bud “spewing” notes out of his instrument and into every nook and cranny, to the point where metric delineation is almost impossible to notate or follow. In these extremely rapid passages, I was simply unable to notate what was going on, even with the benefit of software to slow down the original recording. Enter James Mahone, the creator of this blog. He is a stellar musician and a very interesting cat to talk with. He took my unfinished transcription, and was able to somehow quite accurately fill in all these jaw-droppingly fast runs that were too much for me. Thanks James! It was a true team effort. I appreciate you posting this, so that it can be of benefit to musicians, students and jazz enthusiasts everywhere.
The “wow” factor provided by all the aforementioned fast passages notwithstanding, I believe that everything else in the solo is Bud’s TRUE legacy: hard swinging, perfectly constructed and harmonically impeccable bebop phraseology. Simply put, no other pianist at that time was capable of playing bebop the way Bud played it, with such a high level of fluency and creativity in the bebop language. Perhaps only the likes Bird himself could give him a run for his money. There is a wealth of material here for students of the music. Do yourself a huge favor and check out this transcription. You’ll be glad you did. I have purposely forgone a detailed technical analysis of the solo. I leave that to the folks who are interested enough in my transcription to grab it and learn something about the details of Bud’s style. Enjoy!
BUD POWELL- ORNITHOLOGY (mp3)
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