Thursday, October 22, 2015

George Adams-Don Pullen Quartet at the Subway

Like many of you, I first heard this band as the nucleus of Charlie Mingus's 70s groups, at least those involving George Adams and Don Pullen. Dannie Richmond, of course, had a much longer history of owning the drum chair in Mingus's establishment.

Yet, it was with post-Mingus recordings that I fell in love with the music they were making, a music which, according to Richmond, must have influenced even Mr. Mingus himself.

Hand to Hand, featuring Richmond and Adams was one of the most played records in my "early advanced" years of listening to jazz. Since then, I haven't lost my interest in this marvelous unit whose key members sadly died too soon.

The quartet, adding Cameron Brown, started as a one-off live band, but miraculously lasted for nearly a decade, and it was recorded regularly in Europe. This video tape from Cologne, Federal Republic of Germany, is one of them.

The band is full of fire and fierce energy. This makes Lee Jeske to compare them with a Lamborghini:

"What makes this band a great band — and anybody who has had the good fortune to hear them live will know this — is not their ability to play as a unit, but their individual abilities to heat up quickly, to say something in the solos, to reach musical climaxes without too much muss and fuss. Pullen and Adams, with Cameron Brown and Dannie Richmond stoking the coals, go from zero to 60 in less time than a Lamborghini. It is downright amazing. In a single set of music, they touch so many bases, they hit so many high points, that it can be breathtaking. Similarly, when they go into the studio to make an album, they make an album. 'I remember we were doing a Playboy Jazz Festival for George Wein,' says Don, 'and George gave us exactly 40 minutes. Well, we came out in 39-and-a-half, and we had done everything we wanted to do.'"

A broadcast from Subway club, this hour-long gig features only three compositions. For those familiar with the recordings made by any combination of this band, long songs wouldn't be too surprising, as they are micro-universes or rather micro-records containing loads of ideas injected into one extended piece.

This is a band with lots of gospel, R'n'B, and Soul in its blood. Their members, at early stages of their career, have supported anyone from Sam Cooke to Nina Simone. This comes across nicely in I Could Really Go For You, a vocal performance with that famous crying voice of George Adams. (I've also posted the Epitaph video, featuring Adams, here.)

The longest song from the set, a 12-bar Necessary Blues, which necessarily last for half an hour, is subtitles Thank You Very Much, Mr. Monk.

A Don Pullen composition, "this is a suitably quirky piece with an eight-to-the-bar feel - not in the syncopated boogie-woogie sense but involving even, staccato quavers, as employed in the second section of the theme," write Mike Hennessy, "It has some-thing of the feeling of Straight No Chaser and Adams actually quotes a fragment of that piece when he, Pullen and Richmond swap choruses towards the end."

Some other Monk compositions, such as 'Round Midnight, are vigorously woven into Adams's and Brown's solos.

Finally, Big Alice is how jazz bands want to sound these days: funky and firm. However, for this quartet, it seems effortless.

Enjoy the concert!

George Adams-Don Pullen Quartet
George Adams (ts) Don Pullen (p) Cameron Brown (b) Dannie Richmond (d)
November 11, 1986
Subway Club, Köln, Germany
First broadcast: WDR

Introduction in German

1. I Could Really Go For You (George Adams)
2. The Necessary Blues (Don Pullen)
3. Big Alice (Don Pullen)    

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