Me and Bud Powell

This is taken from - My Jazz Story, Toshiko Akiyoshi - broadcast by NHK Japan in 2004.

Me and Bud Powell by Toshiko Akiyoshi (Jazz Pianist)

It was 1948 when I first heard about Bud Powell. It was a US military radio station in Tokyo. I never knew Bud at that time and was shocked to listen to his playing style for the 1st time. Everything was new to me and I was too shocked that I called that radio station and asked them what that song was and who the pianist was. They told me that it was Bud Powell playing Body and Soul.

Since then, almost everyday, I was going to Jazz Kissa (Japanese style Jazz Cafe where you can listen to Jazz records with just a cup of coffee) to listen to Bud Powell's records. At that time, vinyl records were really expensive and I was not able to afford to buy even a single record. I used to ask the owner of Jazz Kissa
Is there any new Bud Powell record?
A cup of coffee was 60 yen at that time and I just stayed there for hours listening to Jazz especially Bud Powell. At home, I was trying to copy his playing style. 

In 1956, after years of my study on Jazz, I decided to go to the US alone.
What for?
To study and play Jazz!
On the day I arrived to the US, I went to the legendary Storyville.
There, Bud Powell Trio was playing the last night session!
The first impression of Bud playing just in front of me at Storyville, to tell the truth. was disappointing.
His style and power were somehow changed and subsided not like I used to listen to his records.
It is a known fact that Bud was beaten hard by the Police in 1945 when Thelonious Monk was in trouble with the Police and Bud was trying to mediate. That tragic incident caused his unstable mental condition later on.
I knew long before I went to the US that his playing style and energy were changed and subsided because I listened to all of his records thousands of times. Even with the sound on the records, I would be able to tell his mental condition.

After the session, Ed Thigpen introduced me to Bud.
Bud just stared at me and said
Can you play for me?
With 3 days of flight from Japan to the US (at that time, it took 3 days from Japan to the US), I didn't touch the piano and I was little nervous. But I did play.
The title I played was
A Night In Tunisia
While playing, I heard Bud laughing loud at the back. I assume that he felt funny that a Japanese, a female could play Jazz and further more, I would play like himself. After I finished playing, Bud walked up to me and bowed deep. I will never forget that night.

In 1957, my school (Berklee College Of Music) was in a summer break for 6 weeks and I had the opportunity to play at the Hickory House in New York for some weeks. Whenever I played at the Hickory House, Bud always came to see me play and sometimes he forgot his time of his own sessions at the Birdland (which was just around the corner). Now, I strongly feel that despite of his mental uncertainty, Bud felt at ease and happy to see me play because without a doubt, my style was strongly influenced by Bud himself, and I am not an American, not even a man, a woman.

In 1959, while the popularity of Jazz music in the US was going down and racial discrimination becoming fierce, Bud moved to France.
In 1964, I and my husband, Charlie Mariano (alto saxophonist) went to Paris to play at the Blue Note in Paris. There I met Bud introduced by Francis Paudras (patron of Bud at that time). Francis brought a record and played my song (Studio J - recorded on Verve in 1960).  Bud listened to it and asked me.
Did you write that song yourself?
I said "Yes". and he said,
I Think You are the number one female Jazz pianist.
I was really surprised and moved by his word. Since then, that word always would come to me whenever I faced difficulty in my life and music.

I really salute and respect Ms. Toshiko Akiyoshi for sharing this story. As an Asian and woman, she must have experienced lots of difficulties. But because of her effort and struggle, those popular TBM Jazz musicians would be able to follow her paths. Thank you Toshiko san! by Takashi

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