August 2008

Bud Powell - Time Waits: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4
Blue Note/Classic Records 1598
Format: LP
Originally released: 1958
Reissue released: 2008

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

One of the giants of jazz piano, Bud Powell was a troubled genius who survived institutionalization and electro-shock treatments to amass a body of recorded work that was of mostly transcendent quality. Time Waits: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4 was the fourth in a series of five similarly titled Blue Note recordings released over a decade beginning in 1949. Here, Powell plays in a trio setting with Sam Jones on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. This is a tight, hard-driving group, as evidenced by the simpatico playing on "Sub City," where there is careful choreography along with some tasteful soloing. The center holds as the trio moves to "Time Waits," a slow ballad that features Powell's trademark roving left hand. All of the tunes are Powell originals, and there is an alternate take of "Sub City," so you can debate which of the two is better. I prefer the primary for its expansiveness and Philly Joe Jones's great drum solo.

The mono sound is immediate yet evenhanded. Compared to originals, there is less treble energy and therefore greater fidelity, translating to finely drawn cymbals, snappy though unexaggerated piano notes, and crisp drum strikes. The bass is a bit distant, but that's obviously what's on the master tape, and it's what you get from this album. There is some groove noise -- faint crackling -- between cuts, but this is nothing that detracts from the music. I wish I could say the same for Powell's vocalizations. Though they are authentic artifacts of the sessions, they are a bit distracting nonetheless.

Time Waits is just the kind of record that will have you budgeting for a mono cartridge: the work of a master at the height of his powers during jazz's heyday. Also in Classic's catalog is The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 3: Bud! -- another mono must-have.