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Highly Opinionated

Don Pullen: Ode to the Life Lived

By Published: August 22, 2008
Don Pullen He probably did not go gently on April 22, 1995 (the very same day that his friend and compatriot on this musical journey, Charles Mingus was born). He must surely have raged against the dying of the light. But in his own way, because as he found, "Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. Whatever we were to each other, we still are. Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the same easy way you always have. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play... smile... think of me and pray for me. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it always was. There is absolute, unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past. Nothing has been lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before—only better. Infinitely happier. We will be one, together forever."12



And when you think about it, that is what this music we call jazz is all about. And, of course, it was everything that Don Pullen was all about, even when he was not playing a note. So to believe, we keep playing and keep listening to his music—a light burning on a lintel somewhere in the hope that he will see and come for a listen, like he did to me and Jane Bunnett on that cold Toronto evening not too long ago...



Spirits and Dedications



With deep gratitude to Don Pullen for the music...always. To Jane Bunnett, who relit a smoldering fire on a cold day in March 2008. To Rainer Seekamp, for always keeping a flame burning through www.donpullen.de and for opening so many doors, the widest one to Bradley Sroka, who gave me access to his brilliant and insightful thesis on Don Pullen's music and also sharing so much of the music with me. (You're a star in your own write, Brad). Also to Flavio Bonandrini at Black Saint, who provided me with an embarrassment of riches and so generously opened his Don Pullen archives to me, and to Fumi Tomita of ESP-Disk, who did the same and provided the rarest of rare gems, Giuseppi Logan Quartet. Finally and, as always, to Mike, John, Chris and Samuel... always ever so close at All About Jazz.



Selected Discography



Rainer Seekamp's amazingly full and detailed Don Pullen discography can be found here—created with commendable depth and dedication. Here, however, are some of Pullen's more important records:



Don Pullen, Mosaic Select 13 (Mosaic, 2004)

Don Pullen, Sacred Common Ground (Blue Note, 1995)

Don Pullen's African Brazilian Connection, Ode to Life (Blue Note, 1993)

George Adams/Don Pullen, Melodic Excursions (Timeless, 1985)

George Adams/Don Pullen, Don't Lose Control (Black Saint, 1979)

Don Pullen/Sam Rivers, Capricorn Rising (Black Saint, 1976)

Don Pullen, Solo Piano Album (Sackville, 1975)

Charles Mingus, Changes One (Atlantic, 1974)

Charles Mingus, Changes Two (Atlantic, 1974)

Giuseppi Logan, The Guiseppi Logan Quartet (ESP-Disk, 1964)



Notes:



1 Bradley Sroka, New Beginnings: The Music of Don Pullen and a Re-Contextualization of the 1960s Jazz Avant-Garde (Graduate Thesis) (Rutgers University, May 2008)

2 Vernon Fraser, "Don Pullen—An Interview by Vernon Fraser," from Coda (October-November, 1976 p2-3)

3 Howard Mandel, "Don Pullen: Piano Inside & Out," from Down Beat (June 1985, p21)

4 Leslie Gourse, "Don Pullen," from JazzTimes (November 1989, p21)

5 Bernard Stollman, in liner notes to Giuseppi Logan Quartet (ESP-Disk, 1964). Also in Clifford Allen,' Bernard Stollman: The ESP-Disk Story (All About Jazz, November 21, 2005).

6 Vernon Fraser, "Don Pullen—An Interview by Vernon Fraser," from Coda (October-November, 1976 p3)

7 Bradley Sroka, New Beginnings: The Music of Don Pullen and a Re-Contextualization of the 1960s Jazz Avant-Garde (Graduate Thesis) (Rutgers University, May 2008)

8 Lee Jeske in liner notes to George Adams' Don't Lose Control (Soul Note, 1980)

9 From "Postscript," Michael Cuscuna's liner notes to Mosaic Select: Don Pullen (Mosaic, 2004)

10 Don Pullen, in "Some Notes on the Music," from liner notes to his album New Beginnings (Blue Note, 1988)

11 From "Postscript," Michael Cuscuna's liner notes to Mosaic Select: Don Pullen (Mosaic, 2004)

12 Recited by Don Pullen at the funeral of George Adams, November 1988, and from 19th Century Sermon titled "The King of Terrors," written by the Anglican Clergyman, Henry Holland. With thanks to Benj DeMott on "First of the Month."



Photo Credits

Top Photo: Michael Wilderman

Photo of Don Pullen and George Adams: Courtesy of Giant Maw

Bottom Photo: Guy Fonck



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