Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
T. Bekken | Austmarka Norway | 05/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wonderful, irreverent, far-out versions of Monk standards, plus a couple of Pullen originals, which will make your hair stand on end..Let's hope this excellent recording makes its way back into the catalog. Pullen was once described as a man who was 'zipping and unzipping' the keyboard, and trust me, that is not an exaggeration on this album"
Pullen Monks Around
Joe Pierre | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album, from the all-too-foreshortened short Don Pullen catalog, is both a rarity (it's long been out of print) and a bit of an oddity... in a good way. Recorded in 1984, at a time when his style had completely crystallized, Pullen elected to make a solo album of Monk covers. Although Monk was clearly an influence on his playing, Pullen rarely sounds much like Monk on any of his other recordings. Likewise here, while most of these tunes start out as clearly recognizable Monk tunes, each ventures into trademark Pullen territory so that this is a Pullen album through and through.
All in all, there are 6 tunes comprising less than 40 total minutes of music. Really, there's only 4 Monk numbers -- "Well You Needn't," "'Round Midnight," "Trinkle Tinkle," "In Walked Bud" -- and two other Pullen originals (you'll notice that album cover reads, "DP plays Monk +2"). "Well You Needn't" starts out as a fairly straight read of the original, but played at a much faster tempo, and then quickly yields to the usual Pullen treatment, with the addition of layer after layer of signature embellishments as the deconstruction proceeds -- clustered notes swirling around in a fashion that, as they reach their dizzying height, seems to at once suggest a descent into madness and ascent into ecstasy with dense and dissonant power chords layered underneath. "Trinkle Tinkle" follows much the same format, initially stating the original Monk theme while gradually unfolding into a greater complexity of notes that dance around the melody. On the first Pullen-penned `tribute' piece, "Monkin' Around," this formula is almost caricatured, with Pullen inventing a 7-note Monk-esque phrase followed by two repeated chords that eventually transforms into an aggressive, free romp of Pullen pyrotechnics. The tune is aptly named (i.e. `monkeying around,' in case you missed the pun) in that there's almost a throwaway quality to it that some might use to criticize the entire album. In contrast, "In Walked Bud" is somewhat more tethered to the melody than the others, though Pullen rarely abandons the melody altogether and is instead known for dancing around it, sometimes leaving it behind in an extended foray, but invariably returning to earth.
On all of these tunes, it's readily apparent that Pullen could sound just like Monk if he wanted to, but what captivates is how he imprints his signature style over each song. Often Pullen's left hand is doing fairly straightforward (for Monk's music) comping, while the right is soloing with abandon, almost as if it's two different players (and at least three hands). Stylistically, the approaches of Monk (spare, punctuated, dissonant) and Pullen (rollicking and bountiful) are quite different, but as usual Pullen carries off the integration effortlessly.
Not that Pullen, or this album, is all formulaic... "'Round Midnight" is undertaken with a much softer approach that is less angular than Monk's and instead of getting frenzied, uses trills that suggest McCoy Tyner. "Gratitude," the second original tune and penultimate number, is offered in much the same spirit as Pullen's latter day staple, "Ode to Life," -- a gentle, reverent genuflection without the usual adornments.
As a big Don Pullen fan, I've kept my eyes out for this album for some time, so it's great to finally hear it. I still prefer Pullen's Trio work (e.g. New Beginnings, Random Abstract), and I'm not sure it's his best solo album so much as an experiment, but it's still a lot of fun. Chances are it will likely appeal more to fans of Pullen than those of Monk who might find it cluttered, but in either case it's well worth checking out. Look around... I found mine free as a download!
Hard to believe
Andreas Scherrer | New York City | 07/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"this is Don Pullen's greatest solo piano record and it's hard to believe it's not available on CD at this point and doesn't get re-released. Those interpretations open a new window of interpretations of Thelonious Monk's music, I wish he could have heard them. Look out for it when you can, maybe there's somewhere a copy left in a cd store!
Nevertheless I didn't intend to write this review so that somebody goes out there and tries to sell a left over CD for 255 dollars."