Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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PULLEN, Don

(b 25 Dec. '44, Roanoke VA; d 22 April '95) Pianist, leader, composer. Led own group late '60s, a fine pianist who could play 'inside' or 'outside', a musician/composer whose every gig was worth attending. First jazz recordings in quartet of Giuseppe Logan (reedman; b 22 May '35, Philadelphia) were also the first for bassist Eddie Gomez and Milford Graves (b 20 Aug. '41, Jamaica, NY; one of the earliest and most influential of 'free jazz' percussionists), '64--5. Also duo records with Graves '64 on ESP; '66 at Yale U, later on SRP. Led own group late '60s; worked with Nina Simone, then Charles Mingus (LPs on Atlantic '74--5); septet led by Dannie Richmond with George Adams and Jack Walrath (Jazz a Confronto '75, made in Rome on Horo); co-led quartet with George Adams; among the earliest LPs by this quartet, with Richmond, bassist David Williams (b 17 Sep. '46, Trinidad) were two on Horo '75, one under Adams's name, one under Pullen's. Recorded '85 with new quintet: Fred Hopkins on bass, Bobby Battle on drums, Olu Dara on trumpet, Donald Harrison: The Sixth Sense on Black Saint. Also wrote music commissioned by Baltimore Dance Theatre. Other LPs incl. solo piano sets Solo Piano Album '74 on Sackville, Five To Go '76 on Horo, Healing Force '76 and Evidence Of Things Unseen '83 on Black Saint; duo Milano Strut '78 with Don Moye (Pullen also playing organ), trio The Magic Triangle '79 with Moye, Joseph Jarman; quartets Capricorn Rising '75 with Battle, Sam Rivers, Alex Blake on bass, Warriors '78 with Chico Freeman, Battle, Hopkins, all these on Black Saint. Also Tomorrow's Promises '76 with ten pieces, quintet Montreux Concert '77, both on Atlantic. His last album was Sacred Common Ground, a Native American dance project choreographed by Garth Fagan, who did Citi Movement '91 with Wynton Marsalis; Pullen's album incl. trad. percussion, the Chief Cliff Singers and saxophonist Carlos Ward: it was not fully successful without the visual element, but his hypnotically percussive piano was fully present.