DownBeat March 2021

essentially underrated. And this project is a way to at least put his name on the cover and be like, “Man, think about Bud Powell.” And that part, I’m proud of. I can’t remember who said this, but someone compared him to Monk and pointed out that Monk played his tunes over and over again, so everybody knows his tunes. All of Bud’s great tunes, he played once. I think “Tempus Fugit” is a masterpiece. “Celia” is a masterpiece. He only recorded them both once. As far as I know, he didn’t even play them on gigs. So that’s part of the reason his compositions aren’t as well known. He just didn’t play them in public that often. They’re also very, very hard. And I think in the ’50s and ’60s, even high-level jazz musi- cians didn’t always play themright.They’re very hard to learn. It’s not just [dealing with] continuity. It’s discontinuity . It comes from every angle. What did the other members of your core quintet bring to this project? Ben Street is my man. I’ve hired him for almost all of my projects where I explore legacy music or legacy musicians. We played with Billy Hart; we played with “Tootie” Heath. He’s on the record I released in 2019 with Tom Harrell [ Common Practice , ECM]. He’s someone who shows the way of how to be fresh and play yourself despite honoring the tradition. Someone like Ben, he doesn’t say you have to play it like the record; he wants to play like it’s 2020. But he also has done his homework. He’s like, “OK, I’m really going to learn the tradition, but I’m really going to play it in a personal fashion.” Big band trumpet requires a certain personality. I heard Darcy James Argue’s big band years ago, and Ingrid Jensen was playing. I was just blown away. I always liked her playing, but in the context of a big band, I was just like, Wow, she sounds really smoking. She’s playing these hard parts, then she steps up and takes a solo. At that point, I thought, if I ever wrote big bandmusic, and I needed a trumpet soloist, I should get Ingrid. Dayna Stevens is a brilliant young voice on tenor. There are so many great tenor players, but Dayna stands out. He’s personal. He’s got some cheeky kind of surrealism in there. He’s playful, but he’s also a virtuoso. Let’s talk about the original pieces you contributed. When you do a repertory project, I think it’s good to start with orig- inal material somehow. We can’t do karaoke. We can’t sit there and just play Bud Powell; it doesn’t work. You’ve got to stamp it with something “today.” I saw Jason Moran and The Bandwagon, with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, play their Fats Waller project. When those guys play Fats Waller, it’s so fresh. You can’t even call it a repertory proj- ect, it’s just so exciting. But I would say that almost nothing comes from nowhere. There’s always a genre; there’s always a container. Some peo- ple like to say, “There are no references in my music. It’s totally original.” But that’s rarely true. Any single phrase you can play on any instrument comes with a heritage. So, in the postmodern era, it’s just about under- standing what that heritage is, and then controlling it in a good way. Regarding the chorale that opens my piece “Bud Powell In The 21st Century,” I think Bud would recognize those harmonies. They’re a lit- tle crunchy. There’s something crunchy in Bud’s piano and Thelonious Monk’s piano voicings that I love, and so the first thing I do is I present a chorale that’s crunchy as all get-out. And then there’s the continuity. In Part 2 of that piece, I play some of Bud’s famous solo on “Cherokee,” but there’s a new bass line, and there’s something about the harmony that’s a little different. It’s refracted into something else, but it wouldn’t exist without Bud’s phenomenal blowing on “Cherokee.” Do the “Five Simple Spells” borrow from any other Powell pieces? Yeah. Usually, there’s a gesture from one of his quintet pieces [from 1949] that got me going in the composition. In fact, the very first “spell” is kind of based on one of the chords from Powell’s composition “Glass Enclosure.” Originally, we planned to play “Glass Enclosure,” but thenwe ended up with almost too much music. So we cut “Glass Enclosure,” but


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