Tyler Smith | Denver, CO United States | 03/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this album in 1975 shortly after seeing Pullen with C. Mingus's band at the time. I had been struck by the power that the pianist had brought to the instrument on the two nights I'd seen the band and was intrigued to hear this solo effort. I was not disappointed, and this remains one of my favorite Pullen albums.The album begins with the bluesy "Big Alice," which Pullen recorded often during the course of his career. It's a very accessible foot-stomper; "Big Alice" shows Pullen's incorporation of rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, rock and roll and many other influences into his jazz. On the other hand, the tune does nothing to prepare you for what he hits you with in the rest of the album. The three other tunes on the record range from the ethereal and abstract poetry of "Richard's Tune," his tribute to Muhal Richard Abrams; to the extended composition "Suite (Sweet) Malcolm," a meditation on Malcolm X; to the challenging, tempestuous "A Song Played Backwards." It was this last that in 1975 on my first listen brought me up short. Pullen attacks the piano on this track, barraging the listener with walls of cacophonic sound, rarely letting you sit back and get your breath until a surprising conclusion in which he fashions huge, momentous chords that swell and then slowly recede. Marvelous.Did I like "A Song Played Backwards" the first time I heard it? Can't say I did, but it certainly made me want to go back and listen to it again. And as the years passed, I have many, many times, and I find something new in it most every time I do. Pullen recorded many fine albums before his life ended all too soon. This was one of the best and certainly far different than even his other solo efforts. Highly recommended for serious jazz listeners."
Pullen's first solo venture
Joe Pierre | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/20/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This somewhat hard-to-find recording was not only Don Pullen's first solo record ("Five to Go," "Plays Monk," "Healing Force," and "Evidence of Things Unseen" would follow in subsequent years), but also his first recording at all after leaving Charles Mingus' band in 1975. This was very much a transition year for Pullen as a musician -- branching out on his own and trying to reconcile both melodic and free approaches that would eventually evolve into his trademark style that fully integrated both in the form of adventurous but mostly straight-ahead melodies embellished with more free clustered attacks and break-neck rolling-knuckle glissandi.
And so, the all-original songs here begin with "Richard's Tune (Dedicated to Muhal Richard Abrams)," a number that Pullen would revisit both live and on studio albums for years to come. The treatment here is the most restrained of these versions, but is also a steady flow of interesting ideas that seem to plant the seeds of his latter-day style. It's far-away my favorite track on this album.
The next number, "Suite (Sweet) Malcolm (Part 1: Memories and Gunshots)" starts with a purely voiced ballad without any embellishments -- a heart-felt approach Pullen would often return to in later musical eulogies/elegies -- but by mid-point of the tune, he takes on a more free, percussive, and staccato attack (perhaps shifting from 'memories' to 'gunshots') that invited early comparisons to Cecil Taylor.
The third piece, "Big Alice" was to become another Pullen favorite that he often played with his later quartet with George Adams, and it is quite interesting to see the melody here in its infancy, played fairly simply and without the force and abandon that he would later gave it on, say, the "Live at the Village Vanguard" dates from 1983. The tune is catchy to say the least, with a repeated, vampy melody that grows increasingly complex, but not too complex on this first recording.
The final tune, "Song Played Backwards" is an aptly named foray into more free explorations -- dissonant left-hand chords and trilling, right-handed runs that don't betray much in the way of melody, but are interspersed with more spare playing as well. It's complex, Taylor-esque, and fun, but while Pullen ventured in this direction with a lot of his late 70's work, he mostly abandoned it from the 80's on in favor of melodic groundings, so that there seems to be a little bit of a throwaway quality to this tune when considered alongside Pullen's body of work.
As far as solo albums, "Evidence of Things Unseen" is probably Pullen's best, and his quartet with Adams and trio work as a leader represent his finest group work, but overall this first solo recording is a very fun album and it's wonderful to find it here at Amazon for $9 (as an MP3 download), while some folks are still trying to sell used CD versions for $80! It's Pullen at a stage when he hadn't realized the full potential of his powers, and hadn't yet settled on a cohesive voice, but it's interesting music and enjoyable nonetheless.