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The Sixth Sense

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Album Review

Pianist Don Pullen was one of the first of the jazz avant-garde to be both swinging and out in his playing (David Murray and Henry Threadgill would also do their parts, especially during the 1980s). Beyond intuition, Pullen's split musical personality came out of the disparate experiences of being both an R&B organist and a member of Charles Mingus' last group. Like Mingus, Pullen found a way to incorporate seemingly chaotic parts in a seamless and fluid whole. Paralleling his work with a quartet co-led by tenor saxophonist George Adams, Pullen cut this 1985 date with a stellar quintet featuring alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, trumpeter Olu Dara, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Bobby Battle. The disc showcases five Pullen originals, including the highly original and fetching hard bop-c*m-free jazz track titled "In the Beginning." Adding some nice variety, Pullen also offers up the gospel-tinged ballad "Gratitude" (a duet with Harrison) and the New Orleans bouncer "All Is Well." Reflecting Pullen's own quality piano work, all the soloists make impressive contributions throughout. A nice place to start for the Pullen newcomer.


Born: 25 December 1941 in Roanoke, VA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Don Pullen developed a surprisingly accessible way of performing avant-garde jazz. Although he could be quite free harmonically, with dense, dissonant chords, Pullen also utilized catchy rhythms, so even his freest flights generally had a handle for listeners to hang on to. The combination of freedom and rhythm gave him his own unique musical personality. Pullen, who came from a musical family, studied with Muhal Richard Abrams (with whom he played in the Experimental Band) and, in 1964, made his...
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The Sixth Sense, Don Pullen
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