Sunday, November 25, 2007

HEIR APPARENT

Mr. Pullen, are you familiar with Lafayette Gilchrist, a jazz musician from Baltimore who started playing piano at 18, who was influenced by Funk and Hip Hop music, and who mixes those genres with jazz. My mentor says Gilchrist sounds like you did on those Blue Note albums you made with saxophonist George Adams, which is a helluva compliment.

By the way, my mentor's name is William. Two months ago, we listened to saxophonist David Murray album “Sacred Ground”. After Gilchrist soloed on “Family Reunion,” William asked me: “Who is that piano player? He sounds a lot like Don Pullen.”

“He’s from Baltimore.

“Do you have any of his albums?”

“Just one, but I heard him in 2005 at the Harlequin Café. He did a solo performance. He played some originals and a medley of Duke Ellington compositions. The performance was okay.”

Honestly, Mr. Pullen, I did not hear the similarities right away. But I trust William’s ears implicitly because he's a true jazz aficionado. I re-listened to Gilchrist’s album “Towards the Shining Path,” and I purchased “Lafayette Gilchrist 3”.

Gilchrist style is akin to yours, particularly on “Visitors, and “Spheres of Existence” two tunes on the pianist latest album “Lafayette Gilchrist 3”. He plays every square inch of the piano. It appears Gilchrist has four sets of hands zipping up and down the keys. On the ballad “The Last Train,” he plays pretty like the tips of his fingers are flowers.

Gilchrist performs best, like you did, with a trio. I’m not knocking the work you did with saxophonist George Adams, drummer Dannie Richmond and bassist Cameron Brown. “Breakthrough” and “Song Everlasting” are outstanding albums.

You brought everything to the table on“Random Thoughts,” the album you recorded on Blue Note in 1990. Your trio made the album fun, passionate, danceable, and even a little melancholic.

I'm not sure if you disliked jazz pianists who emulate you. Be assured, however, Gilchrist is no copycat. He's your heir apparent, Mr. Pullen. If you want proof listen to "Lafayette Gilchrist3".
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