A definitive documentary on the troubled but innovative pianist
Bud Powell (1924-66) was one of the great jazz innovators, a pianist who changed the way that his instrument is played in jazz.
This French film from 1999 is a well-conceived documentary that covers all aspects of Powell’s troubled life.
Footage of Powell playing in France during 1959-61 with bassist Pierre Michelot, drummer Kenny Clarke, and occasionally flugelhornist Clark Terry and tenor-saxophonist Barney Wilen is seen throughout and, other than some candid moments from the era, is virtually all of the film that exists of Powell; fortunately it is very good.
Along the way one hears from pianist Laurent de Wilde, altoist Jackie McLean (who discusses the friendship of Powell and Thelonious Monk), Powell’s early girlfriend, his friend Freddy Jones (who tells some particularly interesting stories), pianist Rene Urtreger, Francois Paudras (who helped save Powell’s life in 1962), and Bud’s daughter Celia.
While his life was ultimately sad despite its triumphs, this documentary (which has subtitles) does an expert job of telling the Bud Powell Story.