Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

369

Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Due to his limited exposure outside of his native Los Angeles, pianist Horace Tapscott was largely unnoticed by the mainstream jazz press throughout his lengthy career. A galvanizing force in the Los Angeles scene, Tapscott co-founded the Underground Musicians Association (UGMA), later known as the Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension (UGMAA) in 1961, which eventually lead to the formation of his Pan-African Peoples Arkestra. Beyond the valiant support of Nimbus Records, little documentation of Tapscott's oeuvre exists, other than a few sides cut for such labels as Novus, Hatology, and Arabesque, most now long out of print.

The Dark Tree is one of those revered dates, a live session recorded at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood in 1989. Originally released in two separate volumes by Hatology in 1991, it has been reissued as a two disc set, delivering on the promise of its reputation—invoking the spiritual ecstasy of New Thing era free jazz and loft scene era Black Nationalism—without sounding dated or histrionic.

A harmonically unfettered and unabashedly percussive pianist, Tapscott's angular themes and unusual time signatures are a natural outgrowth of the innovations of Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, and early Cecil Taylor. Given free reign in this live setting, the all-star quartet of Tapscott, clarinetist John Carter, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Andrew Cyrille unleash a bracing combination of ecstatic free jazz, primal groove and opulent lyricism, lending credence to the date's legendary status.

The centerpiece of the record is the 21 minute title track, presented twice, with one take per disc. An ostinato fueled vamp of subterranean bass, menacing left hand piano refrains, and insistent snare accents, it features Carter's stratospheric clarinet cadences spiraling into oblivion, which set the stage for Tapscott and Cyrille's expansive ruminations. The leader's extended solo is a hallucinatory mosaic of ringing tones and hypnotic dissonances, with Cyrille's pneumatic variations building to a dramatic finish.

The remainder of the set exudes a similar energy, veering from the lilting 6/8 waltz of the carefree "Sketches Of Drunken Mary" to the crisp martial rhythms and labyrinthine bop interludes of "Lino's Pad." Carter sits out three of the five selections on the second volume, leaving ample room for Tapscott and his rhythm section to stretch out, especially on the epic "Nyja's Theme," a loose 3/4 vamp spotlighting Tapscott's kaleidoscopic variations, McBee's sinuous lyricism, and Cyrille's percussive invention.

A welcome reissue from a criminally under recognized composer, The Dark Tree is a stirring document, worthy of the attention of anyone interested in the full spectrum of jazz history.


Track Listing: CD1: The Dark Tree; Sketches Of Drunken Mary; Lino's Pad; One For Lately. CD2: Sandy And Niles; Bavarian Mist; The Dark Tree 2; A Dress For Renee; Nyja's Theme.

Personnel: Horace Tapscott: piano; John Carter: clarinet; Cecil McBee: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums.

Title: The Dark Tree | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Hatology


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "La Sombra" CD/LP/Track Review La Sombra
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Pelagos" CD/LP/Track Review Pelagos
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 14, 2017
Read "Gledalec" CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Shifting Borders" CD/LP/Track Review Shifting Borders
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "The Four Seasons" CD/LP/Track Review The Four Seasons
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 16, 2017
Read "King Of Xhosa" CD/LP/Track Review King Of Xhosa
by James Nadal
Published: January 23, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!