[Dixielandjazz] Creativity and mental illness and treatment

ROBERT R. CALDER serapion at btinternet.com
Sat Nov 24 05:56:51 PST 2007

I think the great Welsh jazz critic Alun Morgan was
one of those who have suggested that there were
several standards whose chord sequences Bud Powell
seemed never to have known.
But quite apart from the beating-up delivered to Bud
by the police, no doubt causing psychic trauma as well
as possibly brain damage, Bud was subsequently treated
with or subjected to ECT -- electroconvulsive therapy
-- known for its memory-damaging effects, at least as
it was practised in the late 1940s. Tragedy.
Of course the tensions did get into his music, just as
they went into the clowning of the sane Dizzy
Gillespie. But is anybody going to say that the
tensions in some music aren't really quite sane
responses to the violence of neurotic cops? Or the
pretensions of medics who believe in chemical
Dizzy reported that the outstanding trumpeter of his
generation was Little Bobby Moore, who can be heard
briefly on the earliest Count Basie recordings before
he suffered a mental collapse. 
Nearer Dixieland, Cassino Simpson was an earlier
great, Hinesian pianist who wound up in a psychiatric
hospital, which is where John Steiner recorded him in
those wonderful, daring not mad solo performances.
Simpson was perhaps a victim of drug use.
Garnet Clark, apparently an immensely influential
pianist in the 1930s (witness Joe Turner and Ram
Ramirez) suffered a breakdown of some sort after he
went to France and made a solo recording and some
lovely things with Bill Coleman. Charles Delaunay
interviewed him and made some sort of recording of him
in the asylum. I've only ever heard a snatch of
Delaunay's recording on radio. 
Being a juice-head is of course a different sort of
madness. There's no need to believe literally in
demonic possession to see how people could easily
believe in it as a fact. There probably is a need to
witness serious cases to understand how deep the
madness goes and how far. 

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