Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tomorrow's Promises

Don Pullen: Tomorrow's Promises. Posted by Hello

HurdAudio is observing and celebrating Black History Month with a look at several amazing recordings of great African-American music. Tonight I put on Tomorrow's Promises by pianist Don Pullen from 1976.

Kicking off with one of the funkiest pieces I've ever heard, "Big Alice" Tomorrow's Promises immediatly hooks my ears with a groove that Pullen refers to as the "hambone" in the liner notes. It's a groove many associate with Bo Diddley and I've heard it in lots of Rock and Roll music. But in this incarnation it really packs a serious punch as every member of the band is playing their ass off and delivering some great solos in the process. I especially dig the violin solo (with its gritty amplification) by Michael Urbaniak.

Don Pullen's piano technique has a great physicality to it. His rhythmic precision is tight and he knows when to unleash a volcanic burst of energy that erupts in a blur of cascading notes that miraculously remain under his control. His physical approach is such a great match for the funk material on this disc. But there's also a ballad and some introspective pieces that show off the true depth of his stylistic and temperamental range.

"Last Year's Lies and Tomorrow's Promises" is a piece Pullen composed with social commentary in mind. Here this work is realized as a duet between Pullen on piano and George Adams on bass clarinet. The low reed instrument provides a great timbre for the subject matter of the composition and the abrupt ending hints at the unfinished work still left in the civil rights movement.

There's a lot going on with this disc. Between all the styles represented, the great arrangements and the dazzle of the performances is the evidence of Pullen's great compositional mind. He's drawing upon a complicated introspective muse and artfully applying his technique. The funky groove at the start draws me in and leaves me open to discovering the depth of his ideas. Tomorrow's Promises closes out with a vocal ballad, "Let's Be Friends" (an Ira Wormack tune) that gently brings me back to earth. In between is a full range of human expression and experience. It's possibly one of the best jazz recordings from the 1970s.

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