Labels > Black Saint > Don Pullen > Capricorn Rising

Don Pullen

Capricorn Rising

Black Saint BSGG002-2

8052405142399 - Capricorn Rising - CD

Artists :
Alex Blake ( Bass )
Bobby Battle ( Drums )
Don Pullen ( Piano )
Sam Rivers ( Tenor & Soprano Sax, Flute )
Release date
Nov 4, 2016

RE-MASTERED AUDIO and NEW PACKAGING ! This album, originally released in 1976, was re-mastered and repackaged in Digifile cardboard format. It includes the original full-color booklet.

"Pullen favored exotic dissonances within relatively conventional chordal progressions and, to that extent, was a descendant of Monk... "
(source: The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD)


(Original Vinyl LP also available)


Originally released in 1976


Don Pullen featuring Sam Rivers Capricorn Rising

Of all the array of great pianists who have been at the centre of a century of jazz, I have to say that my nonpareil of the keys was a man from Roanoke, Virginia, called Don Pullen. Pullen was born in 1944 of mixed African-American and Cherokee heritage. He arrived in Chicago in 1964 to become part of the experimental and community-rooted Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians while finding his living playing in many a rhythm and blues context. His outrageously progressive talent was recognised by Charles Mingus, who in 1973 made him a member of his band and he played on Mingus’s two brilliantly subversive Changes albums, on pieces like Remember Rockefeller at Attica and the prophecy of Charlottesville, August 2017, Free Cell Block F ’Tis Nazi USA. He made a succession of luminous albums with tenor saxophonist George Adams (find them on YouTube playing What a Wonderful World together at a Japanese festival) and sadly, his trio and Afro-Brazilian Connection albums on Blue Note are now all deleted. But try to get hold of his uniquely moving salute to his Native American roots, Sacred Common Ground, and the trio album Random Thoughts on which he plays his piercingly critical opus, Endangered Species: African-American Youth. Fortunately, the Italian label Black Saint recorded him on a succession of fine albums and one of these has been reissued — an extraordinary pairing of 1975 with saxophonist Sam Rivers, called Capricorn Rising. Rivers, born in El Reno, Oklahoma, in 1930, made pioneering albums for Blue Note in the 1960s like Fuchsia Swing Song and Contours played with Miles Davis on his Live in Japan album and became one of the creators of the experimental New York “loft scene” of the 1980s. The other two quartet members are drummer Bobby Battle, born in Detroit in 1944, with a Black Panther past and a vital, propulsive presence, and Alex Blake on bass, whom I once saw playing and attacking his instrument with a phenomenal multisonic power, accompanying tenorist Pharoah Sanders at the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town. The opening track is aptly named Break Out and the foursome tear into the piece with a torrential energy. Rivers’s horn is furious, Pullen’s keyboard strides are struck with a shuddering force and Blake and Battle summon up a fierce rhythmic undertow. Perhaps Pullen is still in the mindset and soundset of Free Cell Block F as he breaks out of the strictures of structured pianism in the vigour and momentum of his notes. Blake plummets and then rises up his strings to find ardent crescendoes, and Rivers returns on soprano saxophone, fiery and free, as if this breakout will never be contained. Next is the album title tune and it begins with some adenoidal Rivers on tenor alongside Pullen’s leaping chords before he switches to flute and begins to dance and fly, his lightweight notes buoyed up by Blake’s running basslines. Pullen’s brief interval becomes a palaver with the insurgent Rivers, now come back on tenor. It is a long colloquy with questions and answers by both masters posed and retorted simultaneously. Then Pullen’s piano strikes out percussively with an incendiary brilliance, before Battle’s urgent toms signal an importunate freedom. We don’t know who the protagonist of Joycie Girl, the next track is, but she has a jaunty gait, and Rivers’s soprano paints her as a woman of energy and defiance. His sonic lines spark many sides of her humanity, and when Pullen’s solo amplifies the fullness of his own tune with rampant keyboard runs and reflections, we feel that we know something of the complexity of this woman. The final track is the longest: 15 minutes of Fall Out begun by Blake’s irresistible twanging bass, Rivers’s gurgling tenor and Pullen’s combustible keys. His solo has elements of Monk’s sharp corners, Cecil Taylor’s charging runs and evocations of stride piano going back to the origins of James P Johnson and Fats Waller. Yet it is uniquely and absolutely Pullen, his notes bold, truculent and ever-rebellious at the very heart and future of his music, never to be sidelined or forgotten.

17/4/ Searle