When Roy Budd got Carter, GET CARTER (1971) that is, jazz lost one of its most promising voices. Film gained considerably from what jazz lost. Now, Roy Budd is known as an exemplary film composer who was, by the way, once a jazz pianist.
This collection restores the all-too brief impact Roy Budd had as a jazz pianist – before the silver screen stole him away. On the whole, it’s a startling collection. BLUE BUDD illustrates how Roy Budd, in jazz, conveyed a variety of emotions that captured many in a wide array of films.
As a musician, Budd was the result of many influences and inspirations, stretching back at least to Art Tatum and George Shearing. But none inspired and influenced Roy Budd more than the estimable Oscar Peterson, a jazz pianist of orchestral talents.
There is little doubt that Roy Budd studied all of Peterson’s many recorded volumes and probably knew each note cluster, glissando, arpeggio and chord change by heart. Roy Budd’s jazz work brings Oscar Peterson’s dazzling technique to the fore, extending it to reach a new generation of jazz listeners, right at the cusp of rock and Northern soul’s invasion of the jazz language.
Born March 14, 1947, in South London, Roy Budd taught himself piano by copying melodies he heard on the radio. At four he mastered “Knees Up, Mother Brown”, at six he appeared at the London Coliseum and by 12 he was appearing on television.
By 15, sufficiently studied and already accomplished, the boy Budd was appearing in pubs and clubs all around London and, finally, in 1965 at age 18, his first record was released, appropriately titled “Birth of the Budd”.
Roy Budd became a fount of jazz in Britain during the swinging sixties. Only Dudley Moore and Stan Tracey could claim equal rights to the London piano jazz scene at the time and, of these, only Dudley Moore, whose film work crossed the pond a few years before Budd’s did, transcended the U.K. Budd and Moore even shared the same trio mates for quite a while too.
While Moore eventually left music for a successful acting career, Budd kept making music, though he would soon leave jazz for the silver screen. This collection focuses on that period before Roy Budd crossed over to the world of film and proves that his early death in 1993 at the terribly young age of 46 from a brain hemorrhage denied the world a great deal of important music.
Starting with seven tracks from Budd’s debut album, PICK YOURSELF UP (1967), the pianist offers a quick take on Jerome Kern’s lesser known “Pick Yourself Up” and an entirely more seductive take on the insouciant and more well-known, “Girl Talk”.
Budd then comes into his own with the original, “Girl From Southend On Sea,” a samba that reveals an extraordinary gift for melodic invention that the composer showed in such film scores as KIDNAPPED (1971) and DIAMONDS (1976). Budd’s assured solo here is delightfully idiosyncratic and one of the true highlights of the set.
Toots Thielemans’s famed waltz, “Bluesette” gets an impressionistic reading that only someone of European origin would even attempt. It’s easy to hear why not too many pianists have tackled this number. It requires an intellect that’s guided by the emotion Roy Budd brings to it here.
Dave Brubeck’s too little-known ”Bossa Nova USA” seems tailor-made for Budd, who here completely rethinks the tune with a muscular piano approach and a brilliant pizzicato counterpoint that would make the 101 Strings proud. It makes for turbo-charged easy listening and forces one to consider what Budd would have made with a full-on Brubeck tribute album.
Returning again to the well of jazz standards, Budd performs “On Green Dolphin Street” most lyrically and I’ll Remember April” with an impassioned affinity for the mixed emotions of reminisce.
From Budd’s fifth album, BUDD ‘N’ BOSSA (1969), springs the lovely “It Only Goes To Show,” a Budd original boasting an arrangement (his own) suggesting the subtle influence of Claus Ogerman’s best work with Antonio Carlos Jobim.
LEAD ON (1969), Budd’s fourth full album, provides six more gems that lead off with Lerner & Lowe’s Broadway hit, “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”. This strong, medium-tempo rendering is most Petersonian and, indeed, the song was also part of Peterson’s repertoire at the time.
Gabriel Faure’s “Pavanne,” a favorite of pianists from Errol Garner to Ahmad Jamal, follows and benefits mightily from Tony Hatch’s clever imposition of the “Mas Que Nada” rhythm and Budd’s timeless finger work.
Randy Newman’s “Simon Smith & The Amazing Dancing Bear” and Budd’s own “Waltz For Sandy” represent, perhaps, Budd’s most beautiful work heard here and an opportunity for the pianist to explore and engage in the trio dynamics that most unduly credit to Bill Evans only.
Budd takes the opportunity to concoct a most unusual stride arrangement of producer Tony Hatch’s hit, “Call Me”, lapsing into the cool West Coast style of Russ Freeman or Vince Guaraldi and then attacks the ragtime-era hit “Bye Bye Blues” on piano the way most big bands did with whole sections.
Bassist Dave Holland, who was “discovered” by Miles Davis while performing with the Roy Budd trio, once told me that Budd’s love of Oscar Peterson forced him to consider the overwhelming burden of performing on the level of his own idol, Peterson’s long-time bassist Ray Brown.
Nowhere is that more evident than on the two tracks heard here from Budd’s LIVE AT NEWPORT (1968) album. Peterson and Brown had previously recorded Jobim’s “Quiet Nights” together on WE GET REQUESTS (1963) and “It Might As Well Be Spring” on OSCAR PETERSON PLAYS THE RICHARD RODGERS SONGBOOK (1959). Here, Budd and company transcend mere tribute into a poetic signature.
This was not Newport, Rhode Island, as the album manufacturers may have wanted prospective buyers to believe, where famous jazz festivals were held through the late 1960s (the festivals evolved into the JVC Festivals held today). This is Newport, South Wales, where the Roy Budd Trio, with Dave Holland on bass and long-time Budd partner Chris Karan on drums, performed to an enthusiastic crowd of 700 – slightly larger than a club, but probably fighting off a bit more of a draft than club-goers are known to endure.
One listen to these two sterling performances will explain how the chilly venue had more than its share over its more esteemed namesake. Beautiful performances don’t require fancy names – or balmy climates: just good musicianship.
There’s some argument that Budd found his musical voice in such exemplary film scores as GET CARTER (1971), FEAR IS THE KEY (1972), THE STONE KILLER (1973) and as musical director to singer Caterina Valente, Budd’s wife at the time.
Jazz may have lost one of its great potential practitioners. But the film world gained greatly by Budd’s musicianship. In film, Budd channeled everything he’d originally expressed on eighty-eight keys into eighty-person orchestras. BLUE BUDD reveals that this artistry, already well-known to filmgoers, was revealed to jazz listeners early on.