This year, Berklee is saying goodbye to the great Ken Pullig, chair of the Jazz Composition department and faculty icon since 1985. Ken graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1967 with a degree in Music Education and from Berklee in 1974 with a degree in composition before joining the Berklee faculty in 1975. In addition to his exceptional career as a Berklee professor and composer, Ken founded and led the jazz ensemble Decahedron, and has performed with many groups including the Cambridge Symphonic Brass ensemble. He is also a recipient of the Massachusetts Council of the Arts fellowship in Composition.
Ken has also been an adjudicator for the Berklee High School Jazz Festival for many years and is responsible for the inception of the Herb Pomeroy Jazz Composition and Arranging Contest.
On Monday, May 7th, Ken will give a farewell concert performing a selection of his own compositions and the first ever live performance of Charles Mingus’s landmark composition “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” in its recorded form. As to the selections in music to be performed, Ken explains:
“I wanted to include an example from my early years (the 70s). I picked ‘Basically Bop,’ which is one of the charts my band Decahedron played. It’s a hard swinger and is an AABA ‘rhythm’ form; lots of solos, interludes and a few surprises! The second chart of mine (from 1998) is ‘Gorrack’s View of Ortian Tangoid Blue….Then Duke’. This is more of a concert piece — somewhat “third stream” at times — and uses some of my serial technique ideas in combination with modal and blues ideas. It is a more involved piece (24 minutes in length).
“I like both of these pieces and I’ve used them both in the classroom many times. I wanted the pieces to demonstrate both straight ahead jazz and some not so traditional ideas.”
On performing Mingus’s “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” live (a historic event in itself):
“I did not arrange ‘Black Saint and Sinner Lady.’ A couple of years ago, I figured out from his sketch score how he pieced the form together and then I transcribed a lot of what was added and/or overdubbed during his post recording production. I have always wanted to perform lice the piece as it appears on the record because no one, including Mingus, ever did that. It is perhaps Mingus’s most powerful composition. The challenge has been and will be to coordinate all of the collective improvisation moments and the transitions in and out of them, especially the repeats that Mingus spliced into the final product. I’ve been talking about performing this piece for many years and am taking the occasion of my retirement to finally do it! It has a profound effect on anyone who has listened to it and it is a convincing example of extended form in jazz.”
This is an event not to be missed by any jazz lover. The Ken Pullig Farewall Concert is Monday, May 7th at 8:15pm at the Berklee Performance Center, and will also be streamed live on ConcertWindow (video stream) and the Berklee Internet Radio Network (audio-only stream).