Don Pullen

Five to Go

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This little-known recording, Pullen's second solo session (after 1973's Solo Piano Album on Sackville) was made in 1976 for the Italian Horo label. In the interim years, Pullen had been part of Charles Mingus' last working group, the great bassist prizing his ability to play virtually any style of jazz from rags to avant-garde. The two side-long pieces here, which appear to have been largely improvised, tend toward the more outside end of the spectrum on the first cut, "Five to Go." Pullen thunders through the almost 25-minute piece, seemingly going out of his way to avoid Cecil Taylor-isms, but in the process not quite coming up with enough of his unique conception to keep the track from meandering a bit. It's an awesome physical display and one marvels at his stamina, but it's not where his strength lies. Oddly, a couple of electric piano chords find their way into the piece, not helping any. "Four Move," which takes up all of side two, is primo Pullen, his gospel and blues roots showing clearly and providing just the kind of structural framework his flights of fancy benefit from the most. There's more than a bit of kinship here to the work of Muhal Richard Abrams, to whom he dedicated a composition on the Sackville release; his thorough historical knowledge of jazz history is used not just to recreate it but to explore potential future avenues of expression. One feels that it's an improvisation Mingus would have approved of, high praise indeed. Difficult to find and unavailable on disc as of 2002, the finer moments of Five to Go make it a valuable document in this late musician's discography.