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"Pullman unearths how transcendence and disability coexisted in a revolutionary career."

David Roediger, professor, History and African-American Studies, University of Illinois


"It is a landmark in the field as a chronicle of the life of a single jazz artist. . . . There are few works in the entire literature of jazz that match this in original scholarship. The author has unearthed a wealth of supporting documents, including court records, police files, and medical records that not only reveal much about Powell's personality and troubled history but starkly expose the often barbaric legal and medical practices with regard to mental illness in the 1940s and 1950s. The work also sheds light on many aspects of the jazz business and the music industry in general during the period—again bolstered by diligent research.

" . . . Pullman has done a magnificent job in separating fact from fiction and debunking many of the commonly held myths about jazz in general and Bud Powell in particular. He is admirably unsentimental and uncompromising in his search for the truth about his subject. Nonetheless, one does get a true sense of Powell as a person and cannot help but feel sympathy for him."

Ed Berger, author, Benny Carter: A Life in American Music and (retired) associate director, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University


"Pullman's exhaustively researched Wail: The Life of Bud Powell . . . is unlikely to be surpassed. In constructing this novelistic account, written in crisp, declarative sentences with minimal jargon, [Pullman pulls] no punches, addressing Powell with the unflinching honesty that suffused the pianist's musical production . . . ."

Ted Panken, Jazz Times, August 2013


"From every page . . . the reader gains a sense of witnessing the work of a genius at close quarters. The book is a mesmerising portrait of the elusiveness of a man who seldom had much to say for himself in words, but whose presence as a musician was unique and whose influence has been lasting and irreplaceable.

"Pullman doesn't shy away from probing the complex issues around the music and the economics of it. . . .

"The people around Powell, their motivations, the mixture of hero-worship, love, solicitousness, genuine concern for him, their desire to control him, to earn from him, to interact with him, all add up to an astonishingly rounded picture. Pullman's restlessly questioning stance - where necessary - when interpreting their accounts, always deepens the perspective and the context."

Seb Scotney, LondonJazz News, June 2013


"The depth of research that went into the creation of this book is extraordinary, but this book's enormous value is increased even further by the way Pullman brings Powell and his milieu vividly to life for the reader."

Cliff Preiss, longtime jazz broadcaster, WKCR-FM, New York


"Having been more impressed by its contents than by anything else that I have reviewed in the last several years, . . . the present work is ostensibly the mere biography of a single musician. Yet it addresses so many subsidiary themes that the material has considerable complexity—handled with a remarkable control and an even more remarkable amount of detail—which makes me say without hesitation that it not only raises the bar for jazz biography but should be of interest to many less specialist readers. "The interwoven themes include:

"Not only are these matters clearly laid out for readers, but Pullman has obtained unprecedented access to the existing documentation of his subject's medical, psychiatric, and criminal records. . . .

". . . I welcome Pullman's journalistic and non-academic approach, which comes as a relief after reading the output of some university presses."

Brian Priestley, author Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker and Mingus: A Critical Biography; coauthor, Jazz: The Rough Guide.