Don Pullen Day

December 25, 1941 – April 22, 1995

A tribute to the powerful pianist

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Pianist Don Pullen was born on December 25, 1941 in Roanoke, Virginia.

Pullen played piano from an early age including with a choir in church.

Originally he was studying for a career in medicine but when he was exposed for the first time to jazz (he had been classically trained), he immediately switched careers.

Pullen began as an avant-garde pianist, playing and recording in New York with Giuseppi Logan in 1946-65 and working with drummer Milford Graves as a duo.

At the same time to make money, Pullen also played organ with trios in clubs and backed a variety of singers including Arthur Prysock, Ruth Brown, Jimmy Rushing and Nina Simone before having a stint with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1972.

Pullen worked with Charles Mingus during 1973-75 (which made him well known), appeared and recorded in a variety of contexts, co-led a notable quartet with tenor-saxophonist George Adams during 1979-88, and led the African Brazilian Connection (ABC) during his later years.

Don Pullen, who could play quite free but often with accessible rhythms on the piano, had his own style and was an underrated giant.

He is featured late in life on this clip with the African Brazilian Connection.


Don Pullen, piano
Carlos Ward, alto sax
Nilson Matta, bass
Mor Thiam, percussion
Guilherme Franco, percussion

-Scott Yanow


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