NOTES FROM MEL, NOTES BY MEL

Kati Powell, August 2013, Menlo Park, California.

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!

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4 responses to “NOTES FROM MEL, NOTES BY MEL

  1. This is magical. I am not an historian, but at around this time Glenn Miller was broadcasting from Paris. So it would indeed be possible that Mel Powell might even have participated in a session in Belgium. The past winter was a challenging time for American forces, with the Battle of Bulge ending perhaps only 1 1/2 months before this recording. No doubt Mel helped bring joy at a difficult time. My own father commanded his tank across the Bridge on the Rhine, only to be killed in combat on March 21, 1945 three days after that crossing. Jazz can be a force to keep creative energy alive, even in tough times. So I will now have my own fantasy that my father may have heard Mel Powell perform in broadcasts during those truly difficult times. The fact that I was born three months after my father’s death and also have enjoyed Mel Powell’s artistry gives me a special thought to hold in my own imagination.

  2. Sordoni III, Andrew

    Michael,
    Mel Powell was the most talented and compelling man I’ve ever encountered.
    It was our privilege to produce Mel in a Celebration of Music and Art in 1987 at Wilkes University in Wilkes Barre. The attractions were his original compositions, performed by several groups, a jazz segment with Bob Wilber and an exhibition of Mel’s brilliant
    abstractions in watercolor. We were further graced by Martha Scott and many guests
    Including Joe Faux who served in the U.K., played on the band and addressed Mel as Sarge.

    Andrew Sordoni

    Andrew J. Sordoni, III
    45 Owen Street
    Forty Fort, PA 18704
    (570) 283-6202

  3. What wonderful interviews, and then the fabulous music that follows. Powell and Goodman, a joyous duo, occasionally a trio. All the horrible news of the hurricanes were wiped away for a while. So happy I discovered jazz lives!!

    Susan Satz

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. Kati stayed in our apt for a while.Mel was a good friend & wonderful storyteller!I spent an evening in Boulder listening to his amazing, colourful tales.Especially ‘ZUBIN’,Kati will tell you.Pug

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