Two Richie Powell Intros; Land and Brown on “Joy Spring”

In his last interview with Ken Weiss for Jazz Inside, Harold Mabern said, “When I first started, I wanted to comp like Richie Powell, who was a harmonic genius.”

According to Billy Hart, Mabern could play the intro to”Joy Spring” note for note.

McCoy Tyner told Stanley Dance, “I know that when I used to listen to Max Roach’s band I was impressed by the harmonies Richard Powell used to play and by his use of the sustaining pedal on chords. In fact, one of the strong points of his playing was his beautiful harmonic conception. I never copied what he did, but I certainly appreciated it.”

When I chaired a roundtable of pianists, Mabern said that Richie Powell’s intro to “Delilah” was a specific influence on Tyner.

Sami Linna intelligently suggests that Tyner actually said, “suspended chords” (instead of “sustaining pedal on chords”) to Dance in that early DownBeat interview. At any rate, one can hear a lot of later jazz with suspended chords come out of this “Delilah” intro, including possibly John Coltrane’s “Naima.”

“Joy Spring” is from 1954, and is probably Clifford Brown’s most familiar composition. While the theme is cheerful and memorable, the changes are complicated by a chromatic key scheme. Advanced jazz students are attracted to just this kind of difficulty level, which is why “Joy Spring” has been overplayed by amateurs. (Professionals have done their part, with 281 versions listed in the Lord discography.) However, the original remains fresh.

Brown’s solo is famous, but Harold Land plays great as well. I took this down hurriedly in transit, some of the notes are debatable. Transcribing the true masters reveals unexpected and idiosyncratic detail.

Richie Powell’s comping is on point. A lot of ’50s-era comping credit goes to Horace Silver, Red Garland, and Wynton Kelly, but — as the quotes from McCoy Tyner and Harold Mabern make clear — Richie Powell was also very important.