Tuesday, June 20, 2006

tapscott awakened

the overwhelming joys of trolling through my music and book haul from a week in NY/NJ has commenced! i tore through some great books of poetry on the busride home including julie kalendek's 1992 burning deck chapbook the fundemental difference, a very early potes and poets chapbook by dan raphael called zone du jour, catherine wagner's excellent 2001 fence book miss america and dennis phillips' 1989 sun and moon book a world. also been playing the bob dylan song for bonnie: the minnesota hotel tapes last night (really great early early unreleased stuff) and this morning and all 14 van morrison LPs 1968-1983 on mp3 shuffle during the day today (forgot how much i loved that stuff). started in on the sam rivers trio stuff (w/ doug mathews and anthony cole), beginning with 1995's concept: there's a compliation CD in the works there that i'll make at some point for anyone who would like to know what rivers has been doing in this format, so central to his work since the early 1970s.

tapscott giantbut by far the most stunning thing to hit my stereo upon returning from NYC has been the giant is awakened by the 1969 horace tapscott quintet. tapscott is of course the long under-recognized LA-based pianist who in 1961, four years before the AACM was chartered in chicago, formed the union of god's musicians and artists ascension, a community-building effort designed to foster musical and creative opportunity for african-americans (UGMAA) in the watts neighborhood of LA. my only exposure to his music has been the wonderful 1989 live quartet date that hathut reissued as a double CD, the dark tree, the rest of his sizeable output being quite difficult to obtain.

tapscott's playing and composing has a powerful and hypnotic effect, and as this recording proves, it's there from the very beginning. and it's not only the fact that the song "the dark tree," built on the coupling of wonderful bass and piano licks and given two magisterial extended readings on the hathut set, is also present here on this first leader date. the title track of "the giant is awakened" likewise has this utterly hypnotic descending and ascending figure that always begins with a quintuplet figure hammered out in wicked unison intervals by the bass, piano and percussion -- over which soars the rising battle-call triplets of arthur blythe's alto (making an early if not his first recorded appearance). Listen to a 30-second mp3 sample (491K) to get a taste of the 17+ minute performance. there's also a tune credited to blythe here called "for fats" (waller obviously) that reappears later on his illusions record under the title "miss nancy."

tapscott's recordings are horribly underserved by the compact disc market right now. the giant is awakened was reissued on CD by novus in 1991, coupled with flight for four, a john carter and bobby bradford quartet date from 1970. (the cover photo shows carter, bradford and tapscott from left to right). it's way OOP at this point. and if it's possible to have your catalog even more poorly served on CD than tapscott's, that honor might very well go to john carter. of his four co-lead dates with bobby bradford that were issued by the revelantion and flying dutchman labels from 1969 to 1971, only two have ever made it to CD -- flight of four and seeking (both 1969), the latter of which came out in the now-deleted hat art 6000 series. the other two, self determination music and secrets, remain unavailable. bertrand over at bjazz has documented all this and more quite nicely. anyone interested in sharing this music should contact me.

we can only hope that with the publication of steve isoardi's book the dark tree, which contains a CD of all unreleased music and that i'm very much looking forward to taking on as some summer jazz reading, interest in tapscott will reawaken.

3 comments:

William R. Howe & L.A. Howe said...

i love horace tapscott! great piano player and a legendary and revered music teacher in los angeles. i've got several of cds of largely solo piano compositions. nice to hear of another fan. you've got smashing taste tom! good luck with the interview in the u.k. let us know how it goes. lisa

William R. Howe & L.A. Howe said...

oh yeah, and if you're interested in the history of the l.a. jazz scene, check out the book _central avenue sounds: jazz in los angeles_ (isoardi was one of the editors of the book and did a lot of the promotion for it--i met him when i was teaching in l.a. and he was quite passionate about tapscott and his underrecognized status). lisa

joesh said...

Nice to come across this posting even if a few years too late. Horace Tapscott and of curse John Carter are two (of many) musicians to never really get their credit where deserved.

To add to the fun I also just started reading The Dark Tree from Isoardi, looks very interesting up until now. I expect I'll be investing in his Tapscott bio and Central Avenue Sounds also. It all looks too interesting.