Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Don Pullen-George Adams Quartet: Breakthrough [Blue Note, 1986]
Pullen, a prodigious pianist who can nail anything from r&b to 12-tone, and Adams, a brawny tenor modernist with a taste for blues, have been gigging together since Charles Mingus's death left them bandless, and though I've missed their shows and regretfully filed their records (where? where?), I'm now convinced they've got the hottest working group in the music. Part of the evidence is the breakneck hour that constitutes Soul Note's Live at the Village Vanguard--Vol. 2, on which Pullen plays actual music at tempos that would put Yngwie Malmsteen in traction--McCoy Tyner telling Cecil Taylor jokes on reds, sort of. But this direct-metal-master recording has more to it, easing into ballad and samba between great dollops of high-speed virtuosity. The secret is symbiosis--Pullen makes Adams go out, while Adams discourages Pullen's shows of Tayloresque concert technique. Proving that the right synthesis of in-the-tradition tradition and avant-garde tradition is all the concept world-class jazz players need. A