Peter Pullman, Wail: The Life of Bud Powell (Pullman)
Pullman’s research, detail and zeal override flaws of style in this indispensible study of the architect and spirit of modern jazz piano. The author is illuminating in his treatment of Powell’s early years as a child prodigy. He is chilling in his documentation of the mature pianist’s tribulations in the hands of police, mental institutions, lawyers, the courts, and some of his women companions. He paints a bleaker picture than the conventional wisdom that Powell’s European exile was a happy period. Concocted racial euphemisms like “afram” and “euram” are distractions, as is banishment of “the” in the names of things. Descriptions of Powell’s music making are likely to send the reader to the CD shelves or YouTube to hear the brilliance of the pianist’s inventions. Pullman delivers invaluable information about a great artist. Flaws, eccentricities and all, this is an essential book.