Peter Pullman ’76 recently released his biography “Wail: The Life of Bud Powell,” a political book that looks at the pianist’s life in Harlem during the’40s, ’50s, and ’60s in the wake of social and economic struggles that conspire against him.
Musician Bud Powell performed and did improvisation in various New York City Night Clubs with bassist Curly Russell, and eventually as a solo artist as his improvisation went unmatched.
Pullman’s passion for jazz, which stemmed from his college experiences, allowed him to recognize Powell’s unique and talented life. Pullman’s early research on the musician led to the writing of a 150-page booklet on him, which was honored with a Grammy Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
The author’s enthusiasm for the pianist’s story grew from then on, and he began to write a full biography of Powell, for which he conducted more than 300 formal and 500 informal interviews. Interviewees ranged from those who played beside him to those in the audience. He also spoke with colleagues and friends such as Thelonious Monk, the media, and various other members of the public who knew the distinctive jazz artist. This gave him the background needed to write about both the public and the private life of Powell.
The biography captures not only the story of the ubiquitous Powell, but relates it to an entire movement in jazz and music form that took place in his time that may never be seen again. This form rejected the status quo of “swing” music occurring in the early forties and Powell understood that he had something that other artists did not. The Book goes into detail of how Powell’s confidence was illuminated on the stage, noting his art was comparable to other major jazz artists, like Louis Armstrong or King Oliver.
Pullman earned a B.A. in English from Hobart College.