AFTER RECORDING eight albums overseas, the Don Pullen-George Adams Quartet now has two domestic releases to its credit. Like last year's "Breakthrough," the band's new record "Song Everlasting" isn't just a good quartet album, it's a great one.
Despite their association with the avant-garde, pianist Pullen and saxophonist Adams have never lost touch with the roots of jazz, not just the blues but also the economy of the well-structured tune. Dividing the writing duties, the leaders have come up with an enormously appealing repertoire this time around, ranging from the soft Brazilian allure of "Serenade for Sariah" to the high-velocity honker "1529 Gunn Street." This last tune not only serves to remind one of Adams' early immersion in rhythm and blues, but it features one of Pullen's patented improvisations -- a swirling, splashing chromatic feat. Drummer Dannie Richmond and bassist Cameron Brown make sure the music swings no matter what the tempo, and the album is capped by a lovely and soulful sax reading of "Sing Me a Song Everlasting," composed by Pullen and dedicated to Hamiet Bluiett.
By contrast, Bluiett's latest album "The Clarinet Family" isn't nearly as accessible. Recorded live, most of the nine performances showcase a large clarinet ensemble (in various permutations), abetted by bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Ronnie Burrage. The music is full of striking sonorities and harmonic surprises, with the clarinets swaggering robustly on some tunes ("For Macho," for instance) and falling into dissonant array on others ("Sub-Jump").
Listeners familiar with Bluiett's groundbreaking work with the World Saxophone Quartet will clearly warm up to the majority of these tunes faster than the uninitiated, but it's hard to imagine any jazz fan not falling for the Frank Foster-Cecil Bridgewater arrangement of Bluiett's gorgeous theme "Nioka."
DON PULLEN-GEORGE ADAMS QUARTET -- "Song Everlasting" (Bluenote BLJ 46907).
HAMIET BLUIETT --
"The Clarinet Family" (Black Saint BSR 0097).
Pullen and Bluiett appear Saturday at d.c. space.