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Don Pullen, with his heart firmly rooted in gospel, bop and blues, and with his hands grasping on to free-form dissonance, was one of the very last truly original jazz pianists. He found a musical soulmate in tenor George Adams, who was similarly blessed with a unique tone: one foot in with the Texas tenors and the other falling through an elevator shaft. The Don Pullen/George Adams Quartet of the '80s became one of the last great and original bands. Three quarters of the group came from the last Mingus band (drummer Dannie Richmond being the third); they created a unique sound that went deeper than Mingus' roots and was more avant-garde and abstract than even their ex-boss dared to go. Mosaic's limited edition set brings their two best collaborations, along with an interesting pair of piano trios.
Breakthrough and Song Everlasting are filled with moments of glorious rapture. From the sure-footed optimism of "Mr. Smoothie" to the contemplative "Sing Me a Song Everlasting," this band is capable of going in any direction, or many directions at once. Pullen, with his patented swirling glissandos, makes the head spin with his dizzying forays. The only thing keeping him from completely flying off into oblivion is his incessant left hand firmly rooted in gospel and swing. On "The Necessary Blues," the band plays bop, stride, and Monk with astonishing celerity, and their effortless, jaw-dropping technique comes off like a fast-forward newsreel history of jazz.
The remaining discs consist of Pullen working in pair of different trio settings. The first one, with superstars Tony Williams (drums) and Gary Peacock (bass), is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the songs, such as the joyous "Jana's Delight" and the dramatic "At the Café Centrale," come off quite well. The title tune is a bit cloying in its attempt to out-Monk Monk, and "Reap the Whirlwind" overdoes it, sounding more like someone whirling a rope through the air for seven minutes than creating music.
The second trio, with bassist James Genus and drummer Lewis Nash, is a bit more accessible, presenting the funky "Andre's Ups and Downs" and evocative "The Dancer," with Pullen displaying his talent for combining accessibility and abstraction. This musically creative and challenging set takes the listeners where they've been before, deeper than they'd been before, and finally to where they've never been.
Track Listing: CD1: 1. Mr. Smoothie (A) (6:04); 2. Just Foolin' Around (A) (6:19); 3. Song From The Old
Country (A) (8:11); 4. We've Been Here All The Time (A) (9:09); 5. A Time For Sobriety (A)
(9:42); 6. The Necessary Blues (or Thank You Very Much, Mr. Monk) (A) (13:33); 7. Sun
Watchers (B) (5:43); 8. Serenade To Sariah (B) (7:35); 9. 1529 Gunn Street (For Johnny
Holloway) (B) (6:14).
CD2: 1. Warm Up (B) (9:50); 2. Sing Me A Song Everlasting (For EBU and Hamiet
Bluiett) (B) (10:30); 3. Another Reason To Celebrate (B) (8:44); 4. Jana's Delight (C) (5:56);
5. Once Upon A Time (C) (5:47); 6. Warriors (C) (6:45); 7. New Beginnings (C) (6:20); 8. At
The Cafť Centrale (C) (6:52); 9. Reap The Whirlwind (C) (7:00).
CD3: 1. Andre's Ups And Downs (D) (5:19); 2. Randon Thoughts (D) (9:05); 3. Indio
Gitano (D) (9:39); 4. The Dancer (For Diane McIntyre) (D) (5:58); 5. Endangered Species:
African American Youth (D) (7:36); 6. 626 Fairfax (D) (6:40); 7. Ode To Life (For Maurice
Quesnell) (D) (8:39); 8. Silence = Death (C) (10:12).
Personnel: (A) George Adams, tenor sax; Don Pullen, piano; Cameron Brown, bass; Dannie Richmond,
drums. (B) George Adams, tenor sax; Don Pullen, piano; Cameron Brown, bass; Dannie
Richmond, drums. (C) Don Pullen, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Tony Williams, drums. (D)
Don Pullen, piano; James Genus, bass; Lewis Nash, drums.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.