I am deeply saddened to report that Benny Powell passed away on June 26, 2010 in New York City while recuperating from back surgery. He was 80 years old. The jazz world has lost not only a great musician but also a wonderful human being.
The consummate sideman, trombonist Benny Powell (b. 1930, New Orleans, LA) spent three years with Lionel Hampton (1948-51) and twelve with the Basie band (1951-63). But those most illustrious associations are only part of the story. He was also a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and worked with the orchestras of Duke Pearson, Bill Holman and Bill Berry as well as the Merv Griffin TV show ensemble. An amazingly versatile musician, he has participated in sessions involving artists across a wide range of styles and genres. In recent years, his work with pianist Randy Weston in smaller bands has been documented by a number of excellent recordings. He has also become deeply involved in jazz education at many levels and was on the faculty of The New School For Jazz and the Performing Arts.
Because of the large number of recordings involved, Powell’s discography is a massive undertaking. At the outset, I decided that some limitations in scope would have to be imposed. Thus I have chosen not to include here most of his sessions with Hampton and Basie as those are well known and details about them can be found elsewhere. For example, Powell’s Hampton period can be found in Vincent Pelote’s discography section of Hamp: An Autobiography by Hampton and James Haskins (Amistad Press, 1993) while the Basie years are comprehensively covered in Count Basie: A Bio-discography by Chris Sheridan (Greenwood Press, 1986). Instead, I have tried to emphasize the recordings of lower profile but still high quality that some jazz enthusiasts and collectors may have missed including those led by the trombonist himself.
Here are some recordings that Benny Powell participated in outside of the jazz genre for which thus far I have been unable to obtain sufficient details to enter into the discography:
- Neil Diamond, The Bang Years, 1966-1968, Columbia, 2011 reissue
- The Phoenix Authority, Blood Sweat & Brass, Mainstream, 1968
- Dreams and Illusions, Dreams and Illusions, Verve Forecast, 1968
- Michel Colombier, Wings, A&M, 1971
- James Brown, The Singles, 1972-1973 & 1973-1975, reissued on Hip-O Select
- The 5th Dimension, Living Together, Growing Together, Bell, 1973
- Nancy Nevins, Nancy Nevins, Tom Cat, 1975
- Harry Nilsson, That’s the Way It Is, RCA, 1976
- David Axelrod, Strange Ladies, MCA, 1977
- Kellee Patterson, Turn On the Lights – Be Happy, Shadybrook, 1977
- Martha Reeves, We Meet Again, Milestone, 1978
- Earth, Wind & Fire, I Am, Columbia, 1979
- Doctor John, Tango Palace, Horizon, 1979
- Pockets, So Delicious, CBS, 1979
- Webster Lewis, 8 for the 80s, Epic, 1980
See also Bob Bernotas’s Interview with Benny Powell.
On October 12, 2008, Benny Powell and his long time friend and colleague pianist Jane Jarvis were honored at the All Nite Soul event at Saint Peter’s Church in New York City. Many musicians, young and old, performed. (Jane Jarvis passed away on January 25, 2010.)
Thanks to Larry Appelbaum, Bob Bernotas, Gary Carner, Ed Chaplin, John Clayton, Michael Cuscuna, Craig Dorsheimer, Ken Droz (Mack Avenue Records), Michael Fitzgerald, Peter Friedman, Bill Gallagher, John Hasse, Henk Heijink, Gerd Heinlein, Bill Holman, Ken Kimery, Annie Kuebler, Ronald Lyles, Matt McCabe, Jamie McGregor, Ed O’Brien, John Pickworth, Chris Sheridan, Dan Skea, Derek Styles, Bob Sunenblick, Michel Ruppli, Cees Schrama, Peter R. Smith, Peter Smithson, Joop van der Leij, Michael Weil and Jack Woker for information.
Please email me with any additions, corrections or comments.