Bud Powell: The Lonely One (Verve 1955) HMV

Selection: Bean and the Boys (320kbps MP3)

Artists: Bud Powell Trio

Bud Powell (piano) George Duvivier (bass) Art Taylor (drums) recorded at Fine Sound Studios in New York, January 13, 1955, April 25 & 27; first released in 1959


Powell is the definitive genius of bop piano, Charlie Parker re-imagined as a pianist, who could tear up the keyboard in a unique combination of fast execution and an unquenchable flow of ideas unlike anyone else, and changed the way you think of piano and it’s possibilities in the right hands.

Much is written of Powell’s troubled personal life, critically appraising the impact of  his mental health on his playing. Whilst that may help fill the pages of a biography, I don’t find it helps towards enjoyment of listening to his playing. It’s like he is to be faulted for not always being always on top of his game, but Bud on a bad day is better than most people on their best. Bill Evans, no mean piano-player himself,  paid Powell this tribute:

If I had to choose one single musician for his artistic integrity, for the incomparable originality of his creation and the grandeur of his work, it would be Bud Powell. He was in a class by himself.

This Verve recording sits between his early recordings for Roost and Savoy, and the later sessions for RCA Victor and Blue Note, though it’s worth being aware that  the early Blue Note titles are recordings dating back to 1949-53 re-mastered but not recorded by van Gelder, while others are Hackensack recordings from the late ’50s.

Connoisseurs of Powell mark changes between the young Powell in his twenties during the 1940’s and his less energetic and more measured later approach, which sounds to me pretty much the normal thing that happens to musicians, none the worse for it. Verve is as good a place as any to dig in, as recording technology by the mid ’50’s had improved to the point where you get a real sense of the music and not archive field recordings like Movietone News.

Vinyl: CLP 1294 HMV UK release of Verve MGV 8301


The US Verve “The Snarling One” cover was dropped in favour of an equally odd photo choice, Bud frozen wide-eyed,  hands posed on the keys.


Look lonely” calls the photographer, struggling to master his brief.

“You what?”

“Lonely, you know,  look lonely, umm, like you are all alone.

I’m not alone. You’re here. What you talkin’ about, man?

Make like you are playing the piano, sir. Not actually, or it will blur the picture. Just hands on the keys, that’s great. Now, look … lonely

That must be it. Bill Evans says Bud Powell was in a class by himself. Lonely, stands to reason. It’s a wrap. It’s all a far cry from Bud’s subsequent Blue Note handle “The Amazing Bud Powell” . One minute  you’re Lonely, next, you’re Amazing. Goes with The Incredible Jimmy Smith, The Eminent J. J. Johnson and probably a few more self-promoting superlatives, but one more than justified in the case of Powell.

Fine EMI mastering and pressing, Hayes Middlesex, maroon and gold label with Nipper.


Collector’s Corner

They say there are two things which most tax hi-fi to reproduce: the female voice, and the piano. I don’t know about the first as it doesn’t feature much if at all in my repertoire, but it is certainly true of the piano. The melodic and rhythmic aspects are all there, but it too often it is muddy and wooden, lacking the percussive detail of attack and decay of notes, and the harmonic resonance of the cabinet, the sonic complexities that make up the sound of a “real piano”.

I imagine it is not an easy instrument to record well, and certainly van Gelder has taken some criticism for his recording of piano. (“sounds under a pile of wet blankets” someone once described it to me) On first hearing this record, the piano wasn’t sounding right, which for a Bud Powell record is a pretty damning flaw. I put this down to possibly those early microphones back in 1955, unsympathetic recording or weak transfer by EMI, whatever, and parked it in the “come back to this later” pile.

The revelation that occurred after phono amp valves were swapped for vintage Telefunken tubes lead me to bring out my other 1959 HMV/Verve editions, of which I have four. Lo and behold, a transformation had occurred in all of them. Powell sparkled and flowed, glittering legato, arpeggios, cascading figures, tympanic champagne bubbles. It took a lot of upgrades before this piano sounded right, and the introduction of sympathetic first contact amplification at the phono stage did it.

There was nothing wrong with what Verve and EMI had produced from that 1955 recording – it was all there in the groove – the trick was to be able to get it out. And to do that you need to brace yourself and cross over to the dark side, to tubes, where good things begin to happen, that you can no longer explain.

Telefunken-ECC82-NOS-x3-1800-LJCI’ve been a bad boy. I’ve bought some more.

Vintage new old stock ECC82’s, for the pre-amp. Code on tubes B3015126

Both dated 30th May, 1961, Berlin factory, says this excellent site on dating  Heineken Telefunken Tubes

Who knows what will happen next.

Exciting times.



20 thoughts on “Bud Powell: The Lonely One (Verve 1955) HMV

  1. funny coincidence, found a copy of the great Bud Powell: the lonely one_ in memoriam issued on world record club T595 in a junk shop yesterday for a pound sterling probably issued in 1966. this has the april sessions in 1955 with duvivier and taylor

    • in addition, totally different liner notes written by Douglas Findlay with a short medical history hence the title ‘in memoriam’. as a postcript thanks for the sage advice on record cleaning: am making my own mixture and trying it out on a manual vacuum system. will let you know, cheers and love your site, anthony

    • The pre-amp is currently home to some TJ 12AX7 ‘s, which will be replaced with the NOS ECC82’s. The main power amp is solid state -a Linn C4200 . It does the heavy lifting. I have no plan to replace this with a valve amp. My thinking is that the power amp merely does what it is told. Its valves higher up the chain closer to the cart that do the telling. As far as theories go, this one is holding up well. Longer term, who knows. I’ve been wrong many times before.

  2. Strictly speaking, LJC, the HMV version is not really a “UK release of Verve MGV 8301”. Some of the tracks are the same, some aren’t. I think the Verve record also lists Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke for some of the tracks. I have seen neither of these records in the flesh, but it seems a good idea to have them both.

    • So it does, well spotted, Same album title but not quite same personnel and tracks.

      MGV 8301 Bud Powell – The Lonely One…

      Bud Powell (piano) Percy Heath (bass) Kenny Clarke (drums)
      Fine Sound Studios, NYC, January 13, 1955

      2162-1 Mediocre
      2163-1 All The Things You Are
      2164-2 Epistrophy
      2165-1 Dance Of The Infidels
      2166-3 Salt Peanuts
      2167-1 Sweet Georgia Brown (Hey George)

      Bud Powell (piano) George Duvivier (bass) Art Taylor (drums)
      Fine Sound Studios, NYC, April 25, 1955

      2337-1 Willow Weep For Me

      same personnel
      Fine Sound Studios, NYC, April 27, 1955

      2341-4 Lullaby In Rhythm
      2342-9 Star Eyes
      2343-1 Confirmation

  3. Hello, this is excellent, but I believe the audio is “Bean and the Boys”, not “Conception”? Thank you nonetheless!

  4. “There was nothing wrong with what Verve and EMI had produced from that 1955 recording – it was all there in the groove – the trick was to be able to get it out. And to do that you need to brace yourself and cross over to the dark side, to tubes, where good things begin to happen, that you can no longer explain.”

    I second that brother. Tubes do help get the best sound out of the grooves in the vinyl. In my limited experience it is more of a challenge to get a system tuned and the synergy right across components with tubes, but the results are well worth it for me.

    • In addition to the mics and subjective manipulation when mixing, room acoustics play a crucial role in the quality of the final mix (let alone the mono vs stereo paradigm). Pianos are coupled to the floor which is an extension of the instrument. In this respect, Hackensak and Englewood Cliffs have completely different signatures (I let you to compare your favorite LPs containig the same pianists in both eras). Now to the point(s): IMHO, 1) the metaphor of the “wet blankets” is extremely accurate for the Van Gelder piano sound, at least relative to other contemporary high standard studio recordings (considering not only the Jazz genre) and live recordings. 2) What’s the “correct sound” of an instrument anyway?

  5. bud powell’s “at home in paris”, recorded at the height of his mental issues and while he was fully in the throes of going out for good, is a great, and heartbreaking record. solo piano with occasional contribution by rolled-up newspaper. you can hear him struggle a little, but he still cooks. i doubt he really understood what was happening to him. so sad.

    • Hello Gregory, would it be possible for you to provide some more information on that Bud Powell “At Home in Paris”, since you describe it as a solo album (unless the ‘occasional contribution of rolled-up newspaper’ stands for rhythm section? I am a big fan of Bud’s material, but I don’t have a true solo album of just Bud at the piano without rhythm section. Plenty of that of Monk of course.

      Now when I look online for anything that combines the name Bud Powell with the words ‘at home in Paris’ or ‘Paris’, I only get results of ‘Bud Powell in Paris’, but none of them are 100% solo Bud Powell; they’re always with rhythm section. On Amazon they even have it online including an unforgivable typo that reads “Bud Powell in Pairs“, see for yourself here.

      On eBay I found another “In Paris” on the Xanadu imprint (probably the exact same release as the one on Amazon, but again: that one is with rhythm section).

      In short: “At Home in Paris” doesn’t seem to exist, but “In Paris” does, but it’s not 100% solo. Maybe email me a photo of the front cover, or shed some more light? If you need my email address, then please leave a comment. Thank you in advance 😉

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