Karl Ackermann // ★★★ All About Jazz (19 juillet 2022)

Since its founding in 2011, the French record label Dark Tree has been issuing a « Roots Series » documenting previously unreleased performances of the Los Angeles jazz avant-garde from the 1970s through the ’90s. Among the best of those releases have been several from Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra led by pianist/composer/conductor Horace Tapscott. Legacies for Our Grandchildren: Live in Hollywood 1995 is one of only two quintet albums led by the pianist. A community activist in South Central LA, Tapscott often worked with a rotation of musicians; some well-established, others local talent. In his larger ensemble recordings, there are frequently unknown players who have gone uncredited. Legacies… includes reed player Michael Session from the larger ensemble, bassist Roberto Miranda of Tapscott’s sextet, and trombonist Thurman Green, who worked extensively with Gerald Wilson‘s Orchestra.

The tighter, more focused quintet format is a setting in which Tapscott and his band can be more individually appreciated. But the theatrical feel of his live work with the Arkestra comes through in « Motherless Child » with a dramatic vocal contribution from Dwight Trible. Tapscott’s original « Breakfast at Bongo’s » is seventeen-plus minutes of blistering swing with tenor saxophonist Session tearing up the stage. Impressive solos from the leader and drummer Fritz Wise direct the piece back to a full unit closing. Trible returns on « Close to Freedom, » a piece saved from gaudiness by Tapscott’s intervention. « The Theme » is an enthusiastically free improvisation dominated by a piano and drums duo. The album closes with « Little Africa, » penned by occasional Arkestra pianist Linda Hill and previously recorded by that group, and by Trible.

Tapscott began amassing what would become a large collective in 1961, and from that community, he assembled distinct groups for projects. Because he elected to play within confined geography, he never achieved his deserved level of fame. Tapscott experimented and though it did not always work, it was fire when it did. « Ballad for Deadwood Dick » and « Breakfast at Bongo’s » account for more than a half-hour of explosively good jazz. Legacies for Our Grandchildren: Live in Hollywood 1995 was culled from several performances at Catalina Bar & Grill on Sunset Boulevard. Kudos to Dark Tree for giving Tapscott a second life.

 

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