Life and work
Powell, who lost his father in early childhood, was influenced early on by the music of marching bands and parades, initially played drums and began to play the trumpet, his uncle got him at age twelve. Only a short time he attended the Alabama State Teacher 's College and then went on tour with local bands. He had his first professional job at age 14 at the troop entertainment; at the age of sixteen he was in Texas for a year a member of the band of King Kolax, after which he was a member of 1947 Ernie Fields' Territory Band in Tulsa. From 1948 to 1951 he worked with Lionel Hampton. Early model was for him trombonist JJ Johnson; with their donors in the Hampton band was Betty Carter, who encouraged him to play bebop. Early 1951, after a stint in Ottawa, he left Hamptons orchestra and lived for some time in Hull (Quebec ). He then moved to New York and entered the Apollo Theater on in the band of saxophonist Joe Thomas, who was also Charlie Fowlkes. This recommended him to Count Basie on, who compiled a new big band.
He was from October 1951 to 1963 a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, he played as a soloist with the recordings for Clef and roulette, and its success, entitled " April in Paris" in 1955. During this period, recordings were made with smaller ensembles, as with Buck Clayton 1953, sessions hosted by Frank Wess and Osie Johnson session and with Donald Byrd and Gigi Gryce ( Jazz Lab sessions ) in the late 50s.
In the 1960s and 1970s he was one of Duke Pearson's Big Band and the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra (Berkeley Jazz Festival 1968) on, played in orchestras on Broadway and led his own bands. He worked ten years with the orchestra of the Merv Griffin Show in Hollywood, where he worked as a studio musician before he went in the early 1980s to New York City, where he has since worked with musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim, John Carter and Randy Weston. He was one of the sponsors of Jane Jarvis, which began with 70 years making records. Powell also worked as a jazz teacher at Jazz Mobile and New York's New School, as well as a music manager.