Bud Powell: beaten by NYC cops in a case of mistaken identity, taken to Rikers Island, asked his profession, to which he replied pianist and composer of over 1000 songs. Police report: delusions of grandeur. Immortalized by Francis Paudras in his book Dance of the Infidels and portrayed by Dexter Gordon in film Round Midnight.
Michel Petrucciani: diminuitive French pianist, glass bones disease= no calcium, given toy piano and smashes it, demanding real piano. At the end he was up there with Keith Jarrett or anybody else at the top.
Bill Evans: classical pianist turns to improv only in his 20s. Universal Mind of Bill Evans (on youtube) showed his intellectual genius. Straightest-looking junkie you’ll ever see.
Keith Jarrett: most unfriendly interview I’ve ever done. I was his biggest fan to back in the day when he was playing piano with Art Blakey (saw him at the opening of Fox Hills Mall in 1966). No matter……
Thelonious Monk: His middle name was “Sphere” because he wasn’t square. Only comment in down beat magazine blindfold test, after listening to Oscar Peterson, was “which way to the toilet?”. (First jazz concert I ever attended: UCLA Royce Hall, 1963).
Tete Montoliu: blind and almost deaf when I interviewed him in 1980, he barked out at me after I introduced him as a “Spanish” jazz pianist, “Soy Catalan!!!”. Since he couldn’t hear me and KCRW had no piano then, it was a tough interview.