Tim Niland // Music and More (14 juin 2019)

Pianist, arranger and composer Horace Tapscott is one of the great unsung figures in jazz history. A bandleader and community activist in Los Angeles with a career that spanned the late fifties to the late nineties he founded the large ensemble The Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra which featured future legends like Arthur Blythe, David Murray and Butch Morris. This particular album shows the group in performance with a vocal chorus, The Great Voice of UGMAA.. The opening track “aiee! The Phantom” was also the title of a trio album that Tapscott cut for the Arabesque label, but here it is a deeply swinging large group track. There is a deep earthiness and connection to blues and gospel at hand throughout this album, on the instrumental tracks as well as the vocal ones, with three bass players, drums and hand percussion developing a sumptuous rhythm that will percolate and shift throughout the performance. Tapscott has a powerful touch to the piano, in addition to conducting the group that also includes saxophone and trombone making this a powerhouse track that just doesn’t let up. Their approach to Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” is particularly interesting, perfect for the leader to add just the right touches from the keyboard as the maestro did, and it’s the basses and percussionists that provide the textures and exoticism that Duke (and Juan Tizol) hinted at and allow them to develop slowly, as the reed and brass stretch out over the massive rhythm section that is ebbing and flowing like the sands of the desert. The death of the great Nigerian musician Fela Kuti led to the composition of “Fela Fela” and this invigorating piece envelops the chorus and the band singing lyrics in short riffs that are integrated into the band, leading to an opening for an excellent solos for soprano saxophone and trombone alongside crashing drums. “Why Don’t You Listen” has a beautifully melodic introduction for piano and choir, before moving into very impressive intertwining of voices stating the names of many of the greatest jazz musicians of all times and imploring that people listen to their sounds. There are short instrumental breaks for saxophone and drum features, leading into the finale, “Little Africa.” Opened by some thoughtfully spare piano and solo male voice performing quite movingly for several minutes, then joined by the remaining voices, basses and percussion instruments. There is an excellent midsection for the instrumentalists, and solos once again for soprano saxophone and trombone before everyone returns to conclude the concert on a classy and joyous note. This is a wonderful recording and an important one, shining much deserved light on this unjustly ignored master. There is a first rate booklet included with the CD version of the album that has informative liner notes, song lyrics great photographs, making this an exemplary package all around. Why Don’t You Listen? Live at LACMA, 1998 – Dark Tree Records Bandcamp


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