Jane Bunnett: The Spirit's Dancing in the Flesh!
She recalled two of them from the heady days in the run-up to making her first record with producer-husband, Larry Cramer. The long out-of-print, In Dew Time (Dark Light, 1988) featured Don Pullen and Dewey Redman. "This was a glorious bonus," she says, "I would have been happy just to have Don... but then Larry and I thought... well Larry wrote "In Dew Time" (features Bunnett, Cramer, trumpet and Redman, tenor saxophone) with Dewey in mind... He was in town and we went up to him during a break in the sets... gave him a tape and he said he'd listen to it... A day or so later, the phone rang and Dewey said: ..."sounds good... Yeah, [I'd] like to do it." As you would imagine, Larry and I were thrilled! I mean to have both Don and Dewey on the disc together... I must have died and gone to heaven!" In Dew Time showcases early Jane Bunnett and Cramer. The writing and playing is so remarkable that it hardly feels like a 'first' record... rather a work by already mature artist... a career jump-started to the stars!
The nervous energy burns furiously and is white hot. Back in New York, Don Pullen is ready for a whole new encounter. New York Duets (Music & Arts Program of America/ Denon, 1989) is an audacious record. Its magic sparks to light a fire in the not so establishment in 1989. Jane Bunnett bristles and surprises throughout. By now she is forming a symbiotic relationship with a pianist who was outward bound, and like Dolphy, years ahead of his time as well. Pullen has just come off making an audacious record of his own: New Beginnings (Blue Note, 1988) is full of the explosive fire that launched Pullen into the stratosphere. On Duets, Pullen is pushed to the limit by Bunnett with a program that is challenging to say the least. Musicians as matadors...' musicians as hunted spirits too! ...Is Don Pullen is a matador here or is Jane Bunnett...? Both run riot on the inspired program. The renditions of Monk are sharp... clearly focused! Pullen drives Bunnett hard and she responds with garrulous saxophones and charming, natural ability to respond to everything that is thrown at her. Jane Bunnett also composes four magnificent piecesnotably "Ginestera"and arranges and renames a Cuban folk song "For Merceditas" on which Pullen is restrained and beautiful... almost dream-like! So are "Make Someone Happy," an exquisite tribute to Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson and Pullen's own "Gratitude," which he wrote to remember Pops, Duke, Monk, Mahalia Jackson, 'Trane, Eric Dolphy and a host of others who touched his life.
Jane Bunnett's dynamic is brilliant from the first note... always. She appears to know exactly the sound that will open the heart or the head. Because her attack is on-the-nerve, she is never wrong. She wows her growing audience, New York, Toronto, the US and Canada... but more importantly, the musicians! This is just what it was like when Bird and Diz were swooping down from their heavenly flights, beboppin' their way to earth fleetingly! So also do Jane Bunnett and Don Pullen swoop down... Live at the Sweet Basil (Music & Arts Program of America/Denon, 1990) next! New York has its first glimpse of the sensation. Nerves fray, but the performance is of the highest order... Pullen egging on Bunnett who is ensconced in shimmering galaxyCramer is on trumpet, Billy Hart on drums and another Canadian, Kieran Overs commands his bull! It is a memorable evening, not the least because Jane Bunnett sallies forthlike a piper at the gates of dawnon a majestic version of "You Don't Know What Love Is," blowing the spirit of Dolphy back into our minds and hearts, with Overs tugging, not gut, but heart-strings and Billy Hart keeping it all at a steady sizzle with brushes arms and legs a-flurry... you almost forget the magnificent Pullen, until he tears, with quiet fury, the choruses down! And, of course, there's 16min of "Double Arc Jake" and the inimitable dialogue Pullen and Jane Bunnett share, like preachers on a Sunday, Holy Rollin'!