Don Pullen developed an extended technique for the piano and a strikingly individual style, post-bop and modern, but retaining a strong feeling for the blues. He produced acknowledged masterworks of jazz in a range of formats and styles, crossing and mixing genres long before this became almost commonplace. By chance, unfortunately for his future commercial success if not for his musical development, his first contact on arriving on the New York scene was with the free players of the 1960s, with whom he recorded. It was some years later before his abilities in more straight ahead jazz playing, as well as free, were revealed to a larger audience. The variety in his music made him difficult to pigeonhole, but he always displayed a vitality that at first hearing could shock but would always engross and delight his audience.
Don Gabriel Pullen was born (on 25th December 1941 not in 1944 as sometimes said) and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, USA. Growing up in a musical family, he learned the piano at an early age, played and worked with the choir in his local church, and was heavily influenced by his cousin, professional jazz pianist Clyde Fats Wright. He had some lessons in classical piano but knew little of jazz, being mainly aware of church music and the blues. Don sought to play in a very fast style and managed to develop his own unorthodox technique allowing him to execute extremely fast runs while maintaining the melodic line.