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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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DON PULLEN

Richard's Tune

Sackville SK 3008

 

 

1. Richardís Tune (Dedicated to Muhal Richard Abrams)

2. Suite (Sweet) Malcolm (Part 1: Memories and Gunshots)

3. Big Alice

4. Song Played Backwards

5. Kadji

6. Big Alice (Alternate)

Don Pullen - Piano

Don Pullen was an unconventional pianist who was both in and yet not of his time. With a percussive style that to some degree was nestled in bebop, he pushed the edges of free jazz, and confounded both his listeners and his critics. Richardís Tune was his first solo effort, but presaged his ongoing exploration of this genre.

Don Pullenís background up until this recording was principally as a sideman with a number of bands, and as an accompanist for a plethora of R & B singers. He did spend time with Charles Mingusí final group where he was prominent on the albums Changes One and Changes Two. Thus it was not so surprising that his musical direction capitalized on these antecedents. Starting with Richardís Tune, Pullen begins this musical journey in a fairly straight-ahead fashion, where there is an abundance of harmonic fluency, interspersed with some dissonant chording. Pullenís mastery of the keyboard is never in doubt and he prances and dives over the keys in dramatic fashion on the albumís longest track Suite (Sweet) Malcolm (Part 1: Memories and Gunshots). This composition was dedicated to Malcolm X, the charismatic African-American Muslim minister and civil rights activist. Filled with ascending and descending arpeggios, discreet glissando, and multiple other techniques, Pullen brings clarity out of chaos.

Big Alice is a blues infected vamp that would seem to be informed by Pullenís time in the Mingus band. Anchored primarily in the middle registers, Pullen repeats the musical figures with a hypnotic effect that serves to build the tension throughout the piece. Song Played Backwards is the most harmonically complex and discordant composition of this session and clearly is the epitome of free jazz. With a striking assault combined with ever-changing rhythmic patterns, Pullen assails the keyboard with ferocity but never fails to impress the listener with his proficiency.

There are two added tracks on this re-issue that were not part of the original offering, and they are an alternate take of Big Alice, and another Pullen original Kadji. As for this alternate Big Alice, the tempo is slightly faster, and the theme seems brighter, but overall there is very little difference between the two. It is nevertheless an interesting take. Kadji is a dense repetitive two-chord offering, much along the lines of Big Alice but not nearly as interesting, and has a few chordal clunkers. It could have been omitted without any loss of value in the album.

Finally a big shout-out to Delmark Records, Chicago who have purchased the back catalogue of the former Toronto label Sackville Records. The label had been in limbo since the death of the founder John Norris several years ago. Sackville has a terrific back catalogue, and hopefully Delmark will get around to re-releasing most of the titles in the time ahead.

Pierre Giroux



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