Bud Powell’s Hallucinations & Miles Davis’ Budo: Analysis Jazz of Covers

Jazz standards hold a unique place in musical history. Their melodies, harmonies, and overall structures serve as springboards for countless reinterpretations. Two compositions that exemplify this transformative power are Bud Powell‘s “Hallucinations” and Miles Davis“Budo”. Originally introduced by their respective composers, these tunes have taken on lives of their own through the decades.

Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations” emerged as a fiery bebop showcase, channeling the composer’s own emotional struggles into a whirlwind of melodic ingenuity and raw energy. Miles Davis, on the other hand, penned “Budo” (a tribute to Powell) as a cornerstone of the cool jazz movement. His composition favors restraint, introspective melodies, and lush textures over relentless drive.

This article delves deep into the fascinating ways “Hallucinations” and “Budo” have been reimagined by jazz greats. From George Shearing‘s playful elegance to Bobby McFerrin‘s wordless vocal exploration and Keith Jarrett‘s emotionally charged performance, each artist sheds a new light on these compositions. These covers demonstrate the enduring power of jazz standards as vehicles for individual expression, stylistic innovation, and the ongoing evolution of this vibrant musical tradition.

Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations”, The Genius of Bud Powell (1956)

On The Genius of Bud Powell, Bud Powell‘s original composition “Hallucinations” shines as a tour de force of bebop virtuosity and raw emotion. While the title alludes to Powell’s struggles with mental illness, the composition channels those struggles into a captivating musical journey.

  • Melodic Exploration: Powell crafts a restless melody that leaps and twists unpredictably. Its angular lines and unexpected intervallic jumps reflect the unsettling nature of its namesake. Yet, there’s a strange beauty within this chaos, particularly in Powell’s use of chromaticism and blues-inflected phrasing.
  • Harmonic Intrigue: Harmonically, “Hallucinations” avoids predictable resolutions. Instead, Powell creates tension through ambiguous chord progressions and dissonant harmonies, heightening the sense of unease.
  • Rhythmic Drive: Despite its complexity, “Hallucinations” maintains a relentless forward momentum. Powell’s driving right-hand lines and propulsive bass figures from Ray Brown propel the tune and create a visceral energy.

Miles Davis’ “Budo”, Birth of the Cool (1957)

Within the landmark Birth of the Cool sessions, Miles Davis‘ composition “Budo” stands out for its subtlety and textural depth. Named after Bud Powell, “Budo” exemplifies the cool jazz aesthetic, favoring restraint and spaciousness over the frenetic energy of bebop.

  • Melodic Focus: Davis builds “Budo” around a deceptively simple, bluesy melody. It navigates a limited range, punctuated by short, sighing phrases. Rather than virtuosic displays, the focus lies in the timbre and nuanced inflection of Davis’ muted trumpet.
  • Harmonic Undercurrents: While melodically straightforward, “Budo” reveals subtle harmonic richness. The arrangement, particularly Gil Evans‘ contributions, employs lush chord voicings and unexpected modulations. These create a sense of movement and color without disrupting the piece’s overall tranquility.
  • Ensemble Textures: “Budo” masterfully showcases the nonet format of Birth of the i. Lush horn harmonies blend with the gentle pulse of the rhythm section. Solos by Davis, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz emerge organically from this rich soundscape.

“Budo” and its Legacy

Miles Davis’ “Budo” offers a different kind of artistry than the fiery compositions of his bebop peers. Its impact lies in these key elements:

  • Melodic Expression Through Tone: Davis demonstrates that melodic interest can lie in the sound itself, not just complex note choices.
  • The Power of Understatement: “Budo” proves that economy in arrangement and soloing can create profound emotional resonance.
  • The Birth of Cool aesthetic: The piece embodies the spacious, introspective qualities that defined this groundbreaking jazz movement.

Miles Davis’ “Budo” invites exploration beyond its surface simplicity. It offers a model for introspective jazz improvisation and a testament to the expressive power of texture and atmosphere.

Oscar Peterson’s “Budo”, At the Concertgebouw (1958)

Oscar Peterson‘s take on “Budo”, featured on At the Concertgebouw, explodes with the dazzling virtuosity and infectious swing that were hallmarks of his trio. While acknowledging the original versions by Davis and Powell, Peterson infuses the composition with his own distinctive energy.

  • Pianistic Fireworks: Peterson seizes the melodic potential of “Budo,” transforming it into a vehicle for his own blazing technique. His runs and flourishes embellish the theme, adding dazzling complexity without sacrificing its bluesy core.
  • Harmonic Expansion: Peterson doesn’t shy away from reharmonizing the tune. He introduces more elaborate chord substitutions, adding both lushness and a touch of the unexpected to the progression.
  • Trio Interplay: The interplay between Peterson, bassist Ray Brown, and guitarist Herb Ellis is electrifying. They build a sense of surging momentum through tight rhythmic interplay and a series of thrilling solos that echo Peterson’s fiery leads.

Peterson’s “Budo” as a Unique Interpretation

Oscar Peterson’s “Budo” reimagines the composition, moving away from the cool restraint of Davis’s version and Powell’s focus on raw emotion. Instead, he injects these key elements:

  • Unbridled Joy: Peterson’s performance brims with a sense of exuberance and sheer joy in playing that infuses the track with irresistible energy.
  • Swinging Transformation: He recasts “Budo” within the language of hard swing, emphasizing its driving pulse and creating a sense of infectious momentum.
  • Virtuosic Display: Peterson uses “Budo” as a showcase for his own exceptional pianistic skills and the remarkable communication within his trio.

Oscar Peterson’s “Budo” stands as a testament to his ability to take a well-known standard and completely reshape it into a vehicle for his own unique musical voice.

George Shearing’s “Hallucinations”, Rare Form! (1966)

George Shearing‘s “Hallucinations” on Rare Form! crackles with the vitality of a live performance at San Francisco’s Black Hawk club. This version captures the quintet’s dynamic interplay and Shearing’s trademark elegance infused with a palpable bebop edge.

  • Ensemble Fire: The presence of a live audience seems to ignite a spark within the quintet. The performance is full of energetic soloing and an exciting conversational quality between Shearing, vibes master Gary Burton, and the fiery Latin percussion of Armando Peraza.
  • Melodic Playfulness: Shearing maintains the melodic foundation of “Hallucinations” but adds cheeky twists and turns. His sense of playfulness shines through, particularly in his light, dancing touch on the keys.
  • Rhythmic Drive: Gene Cherico‘s bass and Vernel Fournier‘s drumming provide a propulsive rhythmic backbone for the piece. The rhythm section pushes the tempo and fuels the quintet’s dynamic improvisations.

The Essence of Shearing’s 1966 “Hallucinations”

This version offers a unique perspective on Shearing’s approach to the tune:

  • Capturing the Moment: Live recordings offer a special kind of energy and spontaneity that can differ from studio takes. This “Hallucinations” crackles with that vitality.
  • Bebop Roots Honored: A hint of bop rawness peeks through Shearing’s usual polish, hinting at the composition’s origins and adding an exciting edge.
  • Ensemble Inspiration: The quintet format allows for a rich tapestry of voices to interact. Burton’s shimmering vibes and Peraza’s percussive flourishes complement Shearing’s exploration of the tune beautifully.

George Shearing’s “Hallucinations” on “Rare Form!” showcases his artistry within a live context. It’s a testament to his ability to blend technical precision with a sense of playfulness, all while acknowledging the bebop legacy of this iconic composition.

Hank Jones & Joe Lovano’s “Budo”, Kids: Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (2007)

Hank Jones and Joe Lovano‘s duet on “Budo”, from Kids: Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, is a fascinating conversation across the decades of jazz evolution. They honor the composition’s origins while infusing it with their own musical personalities and the intimacy of the duo format.

  • Melodic Respect and Expansion: Lovano’s tenor saxophone adheres closely to the original melody, playing it with warmth and reverence. However, he extends lines and embellishes them with subtle turns, hinting at the harmonic complexity beneath the surface.
  • Pianistic Grounding: Hank Jones, a master of accompaniment, provides both a rhythmic foundation and a shifting harmonic landscape. He echoes the original cool jazz voicings while adding his own deft reharmonizations, creating space for Lovano’s explorations.
  • Intergenerational Exchange: The heart of this performance lies in the interplay between Jones and Lovano. Jones’ bebop-rooted lines converse effortlessly with Lovano’s more contemporary approach. Their solos become a call-and-response, respecting the past while pushing the tune’s potential forward.

Jones & Lovano’s “Budo” as a Masterclass

Their take on “Budo” demonstrates the following:

  • Respect for the Source: Jones and Lovano prioritize the beauty of the original composition, never obscuring its essence through excessive improvisation.
  • The Power of the Duo: The intimate format highlights the individual virtuosity of each player while emphasizing the importance of listening and responding in a collaborative setting.
  • Timeless Quality: Their performance proves that a great jazz standard can transcend stylistic eras, finding new life through the lens of each generation of musicians.

Hank Jones and Joe Lovano’s “Budo” is both a nostalgic tribute and a testament to the enduring power of jazz standards as vehicles for creative expression.

Bobby McFerrin’s “Hallucinations”, Bobby McFerrin (1982)

Bobby McFerrin‘s “Hallucinations,” on his self-titled debut album, stands as a landmark in a capella vocal innovation. Entirely wordless, the piece challenges the preconceptions of jazz singing and becomes a purely sonic exploration of emotion, melody, and rhythm.

  • Voice as Instrument: McFerrin treats his voice as a multi-faceted instrument. He jumps octaves effortlessly, layering vocal lines that mimic horns, bass, and percussion, creating a self-contained musical world.
  • Raw Expression: The title reflects the piece’s emotional core. McFerrin’s vocalizations range from anguished cries to playful whistles. He conveys a powerful emotional range without relying on lyrics.
  • Rhythmic Complexity: “Hallucinations” is a whirlwind of polyrhythms. McFerrin interweaves intricate rhythmic lines through his vocal layers, mimicking intricate drum patterns while maintaining a strong sense of overall pulse.

The Uniqueness of McFerrin’s “Hallucinations”

McFerrin’s take on “Hallucinations” sets it apart from traditional jazz standards:

  • A Blueprint for Vocal Innovation: He single-handedly demonstrates the vast sonic potential of the human voice, opening the door for future generations of vocal experimenters.
  • Focus on Process over Product: The performance centers on the act of creation itself. McFerrin’s exploration seems spontaneous, inviting the listener into his moment of musical discovery.
  • Universal Emotion: By stripping away language, McFerrin taps into emotions that resonate across all cultural backgrounds, making his music powerfully accessible.

Bobby McFerrin’s “Hallucinations” is a masterclass in vocal ingenuity. It’s a reminder that music can transcend traditional structures and exist purely as an expression of sound and feeling.

Keith Jarrett’s “Hallucinations”, Whisper Not (1999)

Keith Jarrett‘s performance of “Hallucinations” on Whisper Not is a whirlwind of raw energy and emotional depth. Recorded upon his return to the stage after a debilitating illness, this version carries additional weight as a manifestation of personal triumph and creative rebirth.

  • Melodic Exploration as Excavation: Jarrett dissects the melody of “Hallucinations,” stretching and twisting familiar lines into surprising shapes. His approach feels like he’s excavating hidden emotional depths within the composition.
  • Unpredictable Dynamics: The performance is marked by sudden shifts from delicate passages to explosive outbursts. This unpredictability mirrors the chaotic nature of the theme itself.
  • Trio as an Emotional Conduit: The interplay between Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette is electrifying. They respond to each other’s shifts in intensity with remarkable sensitivity, fueling further explorations of light and darkness.

The Significance of Jarrett’s “Hallucinations”

This performance of “Hallucinations” resonates on several levels:

  • Personal Victory: The sheer power of the performance feels like a declaration of Jarrett’s return to full form after his health struggles, making it especially poignant.
  • Bebop Reverence with Individuality: Jarrett honors the bebop origins of the piece with its relentless energy. However, he infuses it with his own distinctive brand of intensity and relentless exploration.
  • Emotional Transparency: Jarrett lays bare his emotions through the music. This vulnerability makes the performance deeply affecting, whether or not the listener is aware of his personal context.

Keith Jarrett’s “Hallucinations” on “Whisper Not” is more than just a cover. It’s a cathartic release, a triumphant statement, and a testament to the power of music as a force for transformation and expression.

Kenny Barron’s “Hallucinations”, Images (2005)

Kenny Barron‘s interpretation of “Hallucinations” on Images is a masterclass in tastefully embellishing a jazz standard. Barron, known for his lyrical touch and impeccable technique, builds on the tune’s foundation while adding intricate layers that illuminate its harmonic and melodic potential.

  • Respecting the Original: Barron never strays so far that the core melody of “Hallucinations” becomes unrecognizable. He cleverly weaves it into a broader tapestry of ideas.
  • Harmonic Sophistication: Barron reharmonizes the original changes with elegant chord substitutions and unexpected resolutions. This adds both a sense of freshness and depth to the familiar harmonic progression.
  • Rhythmic Finesse: While staying true to the original tempo, Barron plays with rhythmic displacement within his lines. He adds a sense of playfulness and surprise to his phrasing.

Barron’s “Hallucinations” as a Model of Modern Mainstream

Kenny Barron’s version highlights the following key aspects of his approach:

  • Melodic Focus: Even during his most intricate explorations, Barron’s melodic sensibility remains a guiding force, ensuring the improvisations are grounded and lyrical.
  • Modern Mainstream Brilliance: He exemplifies a modernized approach to bebop while still paying homage to the tradition. It’s musically complex while always remaining accessible and engaging.
  • The Trio in Harmony: Barron’s trio with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums provides both rhythmic bedrock and a space for him to explore his melodic and harmonic ideas.

Kenny Barron’s “Hallucinations” is a testament to his ability to breathe new life into a familiar composition. He honors the original spirit of the tune while infusing it with his distinctive style and demonstrating his mastery of the piano trio format.


The diverse interpretations of “Hallucinations” and “Budo” analyzed in this article offer a testament to the boundless potential within jazz standards. Powell and Davis provided the blueprints – intriguing melodies, harmonic foundations, and a touch of rhythmic spark. Yet, it’s the artists who followed that have truly demonstrated the magic inherent within these compositions.

From solo piano brilliance to vibrant ensemble pieces, from faithful renditions to radical deconstructions, each cover becomes a dialogue with the past and a contribution to the future of jazz. George Shearing, Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, and Kenny Barron showcase how respect for tradition can coexist with personal flair. Bobby McFerrin proves that these pieces can transcend even the boundaries of instrumental music. Keith Jarrett‘s version reveals the power of music as a force for healing and self-expression.

“Hallucinations” and “Budo” will undoubtedly continue to inspire musicians for generations to come. Their stories remind us that jazz isn’t just about preserving the past, but actively reshaping it. Each time an artist puts their unique stamp on a standard, they become part of its ongoing evolution, ensuring that the legacy of these compositions will remain vibrant and ever-changing.

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