I’m honored to know Kathleen Powell — who goes by Kati — whom I met through the kindness of Hank O’Neal. Kati is a wonderful person on her own: generous in spirit as well as in fact, and her connections to the music are deep. Her mother was Martha Scott, the renowned actress who was the first Emily in Wilder’s OUR TOWN. Her father began life as Melvin Epstein, but we know him better as Mel Powell, pianist, composer, arranger, and explorer.
In 2013, I had the great privilege of meeting and talking with Kati at her West Coast home (she now lives in New York) about Mel, and our interview can be found here. And there’s priceless evidence of Kati’s generosity here. Words and music.
When Kati and I met recently in New York, she had another present for me, and by extension, for you as well. Yes, the music on the 78 that follows is familiar, or should be, but this disc belonged to Mel, and it is, for that reason, even more special. I like to imagine the young pianist bending over the speaker in the Thirties, drinking in the sounds, absorbing the magic, making these impulses part of his genetic makeup.
Caveat: YouTube says that this video may be blocked in certain countries because of copyright restrictions. The music is the 1928 duet of Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, WEATHER BIRD:
and the beautiful reverse, the 1930 duet of Louis and Buck Washington, DEAR OLD SOUTHLAND:
and some notes by Mel — two sides [one a sparkly original, the other DON’T BLAME ME) recorded in Belgium, c. 1945:
and a little of his elegantly deep voice:
We’ll never have all we need of Mel Powell, though.
May your happiness increase!