Kudos to Pure Pleasure Records for re-mastering two bona fide (if not under appreciated) jazz milestones.
Horace Tapscott – Flight 17 – Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra – Vol.1 Series 3 Nimbus West Records (1978)/Pure Pleasure Records (2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 43:51 ****1/2:
(Horace Tapscott – piano, conductor; Herbert Callies – alto clarinet; Michael Session – alto saxophone; David Bryant – bass; Kamonta Lawrence Polk – bass; Louis Spears – cello; Everett Brown Jr. – drums; Kafi Larry Tuba – flute; Jesse Sharps – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; William Madison – drums, percussion; Linda Hill – piano)
Side A: Flight 17; Breeze
Side B: Horatio; Clarisse; Maui.
Horace Tapscott – The Call – Pan-African Peoples Arkestra – Vol.2 Series 3 Nimbus West (1978)/Pure Pleasure Records (2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 37:56 ****1/2:
(Horace Tapscott – piano, conductor; Jesse Sharps – soprano/tenor/bamboo flute, bandleader; Linda Hill – piano; Adele Sebastian – flute, vocal; Lester Robertson – trombo ne; David Bryant – bass; Everett Brown Jr. – drums; Herbert Callies – alto clarinet; Michael Session – alto saxophone; Kafi Larry Roberts – soprano flute; Archie Johnson – trombone; Red Callender – tuba, bass; William Madison – drums, percussion; Louis Spears – cello, bass; Kamonta Lawrence Polk – bass)
Side One: The Call; Quagmire Manor At Five A.M.
Side Two: Nakatini Suite; Peyote Song No. III.
When pianist Horace Tapscott emerged in the Central Avenue jazz scene in Los Angeles, he played with Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy and Billy Higgins. Part of his musical vision was to engage in collaborative and socio-political contexts. This led to the formation of a variety of cooperative large ensemble groups that reached a zenith with the creation of the Pan African Peoples Arkestra. Due to unfavorable conditions in South Los Angeles, the “Arkestra” performed in public parks and churches. Under Tapscott’s leadership, dozens of local musicians bonded for a decidedly ethnic-centered exploration that included politics and spirituality. These artists pursued a vision that distilled truth in art over commercialism. Also, the boundaries of the jazz genre were expanded and redefined. Nimbus West Records was the home label.
Pure Pleasure Records has released a pair (Flight 17, The Call) of 1978 Pan African Peoples Arkestra recordings, re-mastered to 180-gram vinyl. With a gifted, eclectic group of top-notch musicians, this “people’s orchestra” creates a unique vision of global jazz. Side A of Flight 17 opens with a free-form piano intro (including interior strings) with deep brooding and a sense of sophistication in Tapscott’s unique delivery on the title track. There is melodic intonation and subtle lower-register notation. When the band joins in, there is an up tempo repeat vamp with relentless fury. It feels widely experimental with free movement.The ensemble eschews soloing for staccato-like accents. But at the 14:08 mark, there is a soaring lyrical flute interlude with vibrato. Tapscott kicks off “Breeze” with a forceful, muscular solo that is soulful and resonant. The group joins in with a dream-inspired elasticity. Side B changes the dynamics with a finger-snapping percussion jam (“Horatio”) whose rhythm and flute accents conjure up West African motifs. Then, they engage in a festive up tempo translation with syncopated aesthetics and time changes. It is more cohesive and intermingles traditional jazz styles including hard bop. Tapscott’s breezy piano lines are hypnotic and are fueled by the in-the-pocket band play and Cuban-inspired agility. “Clarisse” is more ethereal and arranged with a focus on horn/reed textures. There is a slower blues vibe that morphs into bebop freneticism. A smoky saxophone and double bass keep the bluesy edge and jazzy energy. A saucy trumpet and female vocal brings an edgy grittiness to the jam. “Maui” is anchored by another vamp with flute and double bass. Here, the brass is prominently featured in the arrangement. After the swing mode, there is a melancholy interlude before the return to higher energy. There is a bop-like saxophone that adds color.
The Call is equally complex and passionate. Side A begins with the title cut. It swings as Tapscott glides across the piano keys in an extended solo. He is followed by an alto saxophone while the polyrhythmic orchestra drives the music. It is reminiscent of bebop with free-flowing expression. A trombone run adds more flavor to this big band fest. In a change of pace, “Quagmire Manor At Five A.M.” features nimble “cool jazz” vocals by Adele Sebastian. The overall orchestration varies in style and Tapscott executes a high-voltage piano run with potent chords and frenetic notation. The explosive chemistry of the ensemble is on full display. A reprise of the sassy intro brings the number to a close. Each song is unique and translated differently. “Nakatini Suite” displays numerous tempo shifts and relaxed grooves, including a vibrant piano solo (which has a reference to the movie theme from “Laura”). The finale (“Peyote Song III”) is a multi-faceted performance with strings, and propulsive drumming. Again, the alto saxophone provides mysterious imagery and the rhythm section is tight and flawless. Tapscott slides in with his sweeping chords. The final interlude (like the opening) has a slowed-down cinematic aesthetic.