Scott Yanow // L.A. Jazz Scene (septembre 2020)

Horace Tapscott (1934-99) was more than just a very original jazz pianist. He was the spiritual leader of a large group of up-and-coming African-American improvisers based in Los Angeles during the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. As with Sun Ra, he lived in a large home (called The Great House) along with many of his musicians so they were free to play music around the clock if they liked, learning from each other. His Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra was an inspiration for a few generations of young players, emphasizing original music inspired by Africa and American jazz. Tapscott’s band was not as radical as Sun Ra’s but its musicianship was sometimes superior to Ra’s and it had a similar mission.
Unfortunately the Arkestra did not record all that often but luckily some tapes have survived. Ancestral Echoes has four lengthy performances from Jan. 1976 that in its present form are decently recorded. Featured is an ensemble consisting of two pianists (Tapscott and Linda Hill), seven saxophonists, two flutists, one trumpeter, one trombonist, a French horn player, Red Callender on tuba, two bassists, two drummers, and congas.
The Arkestra starts off with “Ancestral Echoes” which has poetry read by Kamau Daáood and strong solos from Tapscott, trumpeter Steven Smith and soprano-saxophonist Jesse Sharps. “Sketches Of Drunken Mary,” one of the pianist’s better-known works, has a heated improvisation from altoist Michael Sessions. Guido Sinclair’s hard-driving “Jo Annette” (Charles Chandler’s tenor and Wendell C. Williams’ on French horn are the soloists) precedes Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq’s 27 1/2 minute “Eternal Egypt Suite.” The latter is quite stirring and includes spots for flutist Adele Sebastian, Tapscott, trumpeter Smith, and Khaliq on tenor.
Although this is a studio session, Ancestral Echoes gives one an idea what it was like to see Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra live in concert. Available from, it still sounds modern and relevant today.



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