Herschel Bullen


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When a jazz musician tells you that he/she has a "day gig" outside of music, it can mean different things. For some, a "day gig" isn't really a career -- just something to pay the bills until he/she is able to earn a living as a full-time jazz musician (waiting tables or bartending, for example). But for others, a "day gig" is actually a career. Tenor sax veteran Hersch Bullen, for example, is a full-time attorney who lives in Salt Lake City, UT. Although he plays jazz locally and was once a member of Woody Herman's big band, Bullen is far from well-known. The obscure but talented saxman made his recording debut as a leader/co-leader in 1993, when he provided Confirmation for Night Life. Although not remarkable, Confirmation is a generally competent (if slightly uneven) hard bop/post-bop outing. The person who co-leads this session is L.A. resident Tom Garvin, who plays acoustic piano on most of the tracks and wrote four songs. Garvin has a knack for pop-minded melodies; "Rappahanock," in fact, has the sort of melody that would be appropriate for a Spyro Gyra album. And the fact that Bullen and Garvin interpret John McLaughlin's "Zakir" lets you know neither of them are bop snobs or militant jazz purists. Nonetheless, Bullen's sax is usually surrounded by acoustic instruments and, for the most part, Confirmation is straight-ahead jazz. Garvin's "Flash" is pure bop -- it has the sort of sunny, optimistic exuberance one associates with John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," Gigi Gryce's "Minority," or Sonny Rollins' "Pent-Up House." Equally straight-ahead are interpretations of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" and Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count." This overlooked CD didn't make Bullen well-known, but it's still a good thing that the jazz saxophonist/attorney had a rare chance to record.

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