Bud Powell Un Poco Loco

My big project this fall was digging into Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco". 

It's a song with more than one moment that pushes the envelope of standard jazz language, rhythm and form. The Max Roach drum pattern alone has been elaborated on by many- the 5 over 4 pattern is filled with energy and slightly lopsided, not quite adding up to two bars.At the fast cut time tempo, I feel like it has a falling forward momentum, which feels to me like he was aiming more for whole note triplets across the barline (this was hard to notate.)

Depending on my focus, I hear both happening, the first one being crisper, the second one bigger and floatier.  What really is crazy about this rhythm is that he doesn't do it on the alternate (rehearsal?) takes, so he may have just busted it out on a whim for the keeper take.  Even if it was  worked out off the record it doesn't really diminish its greatness- a perfect complement to the other things happening.
The harmony includes upper structures that are the norm in modern jazz harmony like the "#11" in the major chord, and even the further extension, What Jerry Bergonzi calls the "#15" C-E-G-B-D-F#-A-C# (DMAJ7 over CMAJ7).  In the intro the sixteenth note flurry runs from the F# up to the C#, definitely creating a shimmering upper plane of sound.
In the main melody of the A section, the C# is used in the run at the end of each four bar section.  Not just as a passing note, but in an almost pentatonic-sounding way with the DMAJ7 as its basis.

In playing the piece, my favourite moment of pacing is this little two-handed melody in the bridge:

After the A section, the melody of the bridge sounds more like a simple up-tempo bop melody of the time, but then the left hand counterline just rips by against the rhythmic punches in the right hand.

The final A is followed by a rhythmic vamp that feels super on top of the beat and leaves the bass and drums feeling like they are holding on.

Then comes a shout chorus that sets up a solo on just one chord.
At this point in learning the tune, I realized that I could work on just holding down that left hand ostinato and soloing over top of it.  Even once he lets it go, the materials he plays for this pedal-point kind of harmony is really inspiring.  This was recorded in 1951-- it sure sets a mean precedent for all the solos over simple vamps to come. 

I started figuring out this tune a few years ago, and even with concentrated practice and study these past few months, I feel as though I've just scratched the surface.

In a few weeks I will tackle the material Bud Powell improvised over this vamp as well as play it myself to put a cap on my study of this piece.

1 comment

  • Mark Eisenman
    Mark Eisenman Toronto
    Great work, and a great tune.

    Great work, and a great tune.

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