Bud Powell Portrait of Thelonious (1961) Columbia

Track Selection: Off Minor (Monk)

Track Comparison: Off Minor –  Monk himself (Modern Genius Volume 1, Blue Note BLP1510   Monk-Ramey-Blakey, recorded 1947, on 47 West 63rd St labels second pressing)


Bud Powell (p) Pierre Michelot (b) Kenny Clarke (d) recorded live in Paris, December 17 1961


If you love Bud Powell, love Thelonious Monk, and admire Cannonball Adderley, then Powell’s tribute to Monk produced by Adderley has got to be a treat. It is Bud Powell in his long European exile, teamed with the best rhythm section in Europe, Kenny Clarke on drums  and Pierre Michelot on bass, the Paul Chambers and Philly Joe of France. Critics speak of Powell’s decline over the years, supporters speak of his growing maturity. Not the fireworks of youth, but a more concentrated sense of direction.

I have included  the original Monk “Off Minor” from 1947 so you can compare what must have been going round in Powell’s head as he played this tribute. The Powell recording shows how much progress had been made with microphone and recording technology in the decade following. More importantly, the comparison shows how sparing Monk is with his notes, often leaving blanks for the listener to fill in, fighting the time signature with subtle delays before kicking back into step, fighting the key with dissonances that reinforce the key.  Genius of modern music indeed. Powell’s interpretation is more detailed and  rich, and the rhythm section has greater presence than the 1947 recording. Both… great!

Cover Art:

Cover art by “Nica”, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter,  disinherited scion of the Rothschild international financial dynasty, eccentric patron and supporter of modern jazz artists, a case of bad money turned good. The so-called Bop Baroness, in whose apartment Charlie Parker died in 1955, following which Koenigswarter was asked to leave by the hotel management and re-located to the Bolivar Hotel, a building commemorated in Thelonious Monk’s 1956 tune “Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues”. After Monk ended his public performances in the mid-1970s he retired to Koenigswarter’s house in New Jersey where he died in 1982. She died in 1988, aged 74. Extraordinary lady.

There are numerous compositions in Nica’s honour. Gigi Gryce’s Nica’s Tempo, Sonny Clark’s Nica, Horace Silver’s Nica’s Dream, Kenny Dorham’s Tonica, Kenny Drew’s Blues for Nica, Freddie Redd’s Nica Steps Out, Barry Harris’s Inca, Tommy Flanagan’s Thelonica and Thelonious Monk’s Pannonica were all dedicated to her. The Jazz Baroness is subject of a forthcoming film worth looking out for.

Vinyl: Columbia CL 2292 first US release in 1965

Columbia two-eye, import with copyright issues handled in a way I have not seen before. This is the real deal: Columbia imported from the US – none of that remastering from copy tapes between cups of tea in the Hayes Middlesex canteen. Someone then painstakingly crossed out its Columbia origins – I guess the UK label licensed to distribute Columbia was UK CBS – and the maracas  registered trademark bit gets the black marker pen treatment. The fun is only just starting. When it gets to the liner notes our record company official scores out the US royalties holder after each song title (though in pencil so you can still read it), and he is on a roll. Next he lays in to the grammar:

I suspect the benefit of an expensive public school education! (Note for US readers, it is customary here to call things the opposite of what they are. So our “public schools” are private schools;the health service is an ill-health service, “value-added tax” reduces value, and so on.) The liner notes are written in the present voice, but because they refer to past events, our record company executive and frustrated literary critic corrects a few verbs to the past tense, and but gives up and leaves most of it as written: “Half the job done, half-arsed”. Also customary in certain quarters. Only the Demonstration Only stickers perform – they truly stick, refusing all attempts to lift them up.

The Matrix

Columbia XLP 78718/9 1A/1A

Vinyl Weight: 132gm

Interesting, 1965 and vinyl thickness continues to reduce.

Collectors Corner

Source: North London record store

One of the great things about  collecting records is that you come across the strangest unexpected things, you just never know what is going to turn up. Another interesting record is always just around the corner.

It is also nice to still find things in real physical shops where you can look at what you are buying. I am growing tired of the endless stream of Ebay sellers selling near-worthless reissues, hoping you will mistake it for an original. Blue Note blah blah blah, Recorded 1958 – Mint! Looks almost unplayed!  Yes, and why would that be?

4 thoughts on “Bud Powell Portrait of Thelonious (1961) Columbia

  1. Digging this one up from the past, but I have a copy of Dave Brubeck’s Bossa Nova USA with much the same treatment – CBS logos and text stuck, separately, over each place it would have said Columbia, including the inner sleeve, and some fine scalpel work to cut out some very small Columbia copyright references on the sleeve, and a red label with four eyes to cover up the Columbia logos. It must have been a promo copy or similar, the effort wouldn’t have been worthwhile on more than one or two copies.

  2. So let me get this straight: all the black marker pen and the crossing out of the Columbia name and Marcas Registradas is actually on the record cover and label as in “printed on” and thus on all other copies of this pressing? Or is this done by hand, directly on your cover only as in “this promo must not bear any signs and/or references to…” ?

    Intriguing stuff. And a great record. Powell, Monk; always a treat, never boring and always surprising. Can’t get enough of them. Musically that is 😉

    • The obliteration of trademarks is all done by hand. I don’t know how many demonstration disks would have been supplied from the US, I don’t imagine very many. It isn’t a white label promo from a British pressing. It must be a stage before that, sent between some one “in the trade” both here and the US, who knew the legalese.. It doesn’t have the official “Mecolico” Import Tax Stamp, so it is not legally imported and therefore could not be sold legally. I suspect all about royalty payments and taxes, not music. A curiosity indeed.

      • Hmmm… interesting.

        Maybe as case of parallel import. And that this was the way to do it ‘kinda’ legally 😉

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