There can hardly be a tune ever written that some jazz musician somewhere hasn’t taken a fancy to and done their own original version, however unpromising the raw material. Louis Armstrong had a particularly amazing ability to turn base metal into solid gold, making glorious music out of tunes nobody else wanted to touch.
These thoughts came into my head when I was listening last night to this version of Over the Rainbow, by the great Bud Powell, which I think is brilliant, despite the mawkish sentimentality of the original song. Bud Powell had serious mental illness to deal with – he suffered numerous breakdowns and was heavily medicated in an attempt treat his schizophrenia – and also had a long-term problem with narcotic abuse; the two issues were no doubt related.
Although he moved to Paris in 1959 to make a fresh start, his self-destructive tendencies caught up with him. The quality of his…
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