Karl Ackermann // All About Jazz (18 mars 2021)

Roberto Miranda has appeared on almost one-hundred albums but has been lightly recorded as a leader, and inexplicably struggled to generate interest among labels. Dark Tree Records has released some great Horace Tapscott performances from the ’70s and ’80s. The label resurrected a Miranda-led session on Live at the Bing Theater; Los Angeles, 1985. Recorded at the USC campus auditorium, the sound is pristine, and the ambiance, eclectic and dynamic.

Miranda studied bass with Ray Brown and Red Mitchell, and classical music with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Early in his career, he had the unexpected opportunity to play with Cecil Taylor—a mind-opening experience for the young bassist. He has recorded with Kenny Burrell, Bobby Bradford, and John Carter. Miranda has had a memorable impact with his contributions to the music of Bobby Hutcherson, David Murray, Arthur Blythe and others. Most notably, the bassist had been a member of Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. Miranda shared more than music with Tapscott; both were exceedingly faithful to the South-Central Los Angeles arts scene, and that commitment narrowed Miranda’s visibility outside the community.

Live at the Bing Theater; Los Angeles, 1985 consists of seven Miranda originals. The complex pieces are often driven by Tapscott or flautist James Newton, but saxophonist Thom David Mason and trumpeter Bradford regularly take center stage. « Platform for Freedom » begins the performance and is true to its name. Tapscott lets loose with a torrential improvisation with Miranda’s breakneck accompaniment. The sprawling, sixteen-minute « Prayer #1″ veers from idyllic calm to unrestrained free playing and back again. Opening and closing with Bradford’s elegiac trumpet solo, it is the essence of the South-Central creative mindset. The noirish opening to « Deborah Tasmin » features Mason’s tenor saxophone and Tapscott. Newton lightens the piece, but the flute quickly gives way to the growling sax and a redirection. Miranda contributes a solo number with « Improvised Bass Solo 5/25/85. »

Miranda has toured Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.A. and has been teaching at USC’s Department of Jazz Studies for more than two decades. Live at the Bing Theater; Los Angeles, 1985 demonstrates his skills as a composer and player in some challenging settings. His music is worth seeking out, and fans of Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra will find this release very satisfying.

 

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