About the Author



While my passion for jazz dates to my college years, I spent my early twenties working in theatre. After that, I began a career in international civil service, in Africa: I worked in Swaziland, in rural/community development, and in Sudan, in refugee assistance. I also worked for a time at United Nations Development Program in New York City.

I didn’t write about music till I was past thirty years of age, when I became the first US correspondent for The Wire (UK). I then wrote features for the annual issues of Village Voice that were devoted to jazz. My involvement with the music business followed, in the Nineties. For seven years I was part of a small creative team at Verve Records that produced, for issue on CD, that label's classic LP releases.

Among the more ambitious projects was a five-CD set of Bud Powell's music. For it, I wrote and edited a 150-page booklet about him. I conducted more than a dozen interviews, some with those who had played alongside him and others with those who derived their inspiration from a distance. My work was cited by NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences), in the form of a nomination for a Grammy award.

I then looked to how I might expand that work into a biography. The research ended up comprising more than three hundred formal interviews and more than five hundred informal ones.

I went to Europe several times to do interviews, and other research, and I wound up moving to Paris. (Okay . . . but only in part to live the charmed life of an expatriate writer.) In 2004 I returned to live in Brooklyn, New York, with Joan, the woman whom I then married. We live with two beautiful cats and a lot of LPs and books.

As time has passed, my sense has grown more certain, that Bud Powell was among a select group and at the forefront of a unique artistic movement—and that nothing like him or it will ever be seen again. It has been my greatest honor to learn what I could of his life and his art, and to write his biography.

About Wail: The Life of Bud Powell

Along with the moving recollections of musicians and fans who saw and heard Bud Powell play, his recorded art sustained me as I sought to understand his private life. I recognized from the start the need to interview MDs and nurses, and to petition state courts and health administrations, in pursuit of the truth of his life away from the nightclub stage and recording studio.

But investigating Powell’s life was a long undertaking—for which loyal colleagues and friends often suspended their own concerns to advise me. They were sympathetic listeners, strong counsel and, of course, serious readers of the manuscript at all stages of its development.

This help—and the electronic revolution in book publishing, which has developed much like that in music recording—has given me the incentive and courage to present Wail to the world.

For ongoing commentary on Bud Powell, please visit my blog at thelifeofbudpowell.wordpress.com