The Best of the Blue Note Years

COMPOSERS: Don Pullen
LABELS: Blue Note
ALBUM TITLE: Don Pullen
PERFORMER: Don Pullen (p) with various, including: George Adams (ts); Carlos Ward (as); Gary Peacock (b); Tony Williams (d)
CATALOGUE NO: Blue Note CDP 8 23513 2

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Pianist Don Pullen, who died in 1995, was a one-off. As this timely compilation goes some way to demonstrating, the scope of his writing and richness in improvising places him firmly among the great original thinkers. Sometimes compared with Cecil Taylor for his use of incendiary right-hand note clusters, Pullen’s wide ranging approach was less severe, more persuasive than Taylor’s. He could move easily from heavily percussive, cascading ensemble playing to silent-movie-style romanticism in a solo feature.

An experimentalist early on, Pullen moved into the mainstream in the Seventies working with Art Blakey and also Charles Mingus. But he devoted the latter part of his career to his own small groups. These well-chosen selections span 1986 to 1993, when Pullen was still travelling, tying up the African and Latin connections in his music (and wardrobe).

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Some classic Pullen is included here: the tempestuous ‘El Matador’, opposite altoist Carlos Ward; a heartbreaking tribute to George Adams in ‘Ode To Life’; the extraordinary ‘Reservation Blues’, a collaboration with the Chief Cliff American Indian singers. Pullen savants have no need for this album, but for the uninitiated it is a short introduction to a vivid legacy: listen and hope that the originals are still available. Garry Booth