Don Pullen solo album
Joe Pierre | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don Pullen is a piano player firmly rooted in the jazz and blues tradition (having cut his teeth with Mingus in the 70's before forming the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet in the 80's and later coming to fame as a leader before his death), but known for his ability and tendency to wander into the avant garde within tunes. His signature free style includes percussive attacks, fast rolling runs up and down the keyboard, dissonant clusters, and full use of the piano's range simultaneously evoking McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor. However, as Stanley Crouch's often annoying liner notes inevitably point out, Pullen always seems to maintain contact with the melody. In fact, his equal comfort venturing into free explorations and playing a straight, soulful melody or ballad (often within the same song) is what defines Don Pullen's style.
"Evidence of Things Unseen" is a solo album from a studio date in 1983 -- it is somewhat hard to find, but well worth the effort. Don Pullen was under-recorded in his too-short career and life, and there are only a few solo albums to be found (the others being "Healing Force" on Black Saint and the earlier "Solo Piano Record" on the Sackville label). "Evidence" is brief at 43 minutes, but has the advantage of solid recording quality (Black Saint) and a representative collection of tunes:
1. Evidence of Things Unseen 11:40
2. Victory Dance (For Sharon) 8:20
3. In the Beginning (For Nick) 18:40
4. Perseverance 3:00
5. Rejoice 1:04
The first three are characteristic Pullen originals in which he first states a melody and then eventually builds to the Pullen-treatment with clusters, runs, and tinkling glissandi. "In the Beginning" finds him bouncing around in free jazz throughout the extended piece. "Perseverence" is a shorter, more straight ahead blues number, while "Rejoice" is just a brief statement of a theme to cap things off. The album is a joy and definitely worthy of 5 stars, though I personally tend to prefer Pullen's ensemble work (see "New Beginnings," "Random Thoughts," or the George Adams quartet) to his solo albums.