Wail explores and celebrates the life and music of Bud Powell, who is regarded by many as the most important jazz pianist of the forties and fifties.
The script can be downloaded free by clicking here
I am putting it out because, though we are in a time which will mean increasing constraints on professional companies, it would be a very suitable vehicle for community groups or for students. As the work is intended as a tribute, it would be ideal if the play could be performed by a predominantly black company of actors and musicians, with guest white actors. For such groups the script can be used without royalty payments, provided that I am notified through this site, and am credited in programmes and publicity.
Two examples of the music are given here, which can be downloaded free:
These pieces are performed by Terry Mortimer.
I should of course be very willing to provide a score, but am willing for musicians working with a theatre group to provide either all the music or a part of it in collaboration with me.
The work is in a loose documentary form, with a structure reminiscent of Under Milk Wood in that it projects the internal states of people who knew the artist. Wail is a tapestry which weaves together simulations of interviews with people who knew Powell and scenes from his life. A commentary is also provided by two morticians involved in his funeral, and by the Critic, who attempts to reconcile the paradoxes of Powell's life.
The piece is rendered distinctive by the role it gives to music, which is not merely an incidental support, but provides another mode of commentary upon the theme of the play. To this end the script deploys both extracts from recordings by Powell and original music by the author, who is also a professional musician. The original compositions take the form of instrumental music in the bebop jazz idiom, a song of which the lyric is created by using the titles of Powell pieces, and a union of words and music, rather on the lines of poetry and jazz, which forms part of the Critic's contributions. The effect is rather that of listening to music or watching ballet, than of naturalistic drama.