369

Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree 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 Birdhoused CD/LP/Track Review Birdhoused
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 1
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Meeting My Shadow CD/LP/Track Review Meeting My Shadow
by James Nadal
Published: July 22, 2017
Read No Secrets No Lies CD/LP/Track Review No Secrets No Lies
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 22, 2017
Read 50 CD/LP/Track Review 50
by Doug Collette
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Day After Day CD/LP/Track Review Day After Day
by John Eyles
Published: July 21, 2017
Read "Salt Task" CD/LP/Track Review Salt Task
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "We Are The World" CD/LP/Track Review We Are The World
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 27, 2016
Read "Acoustically Speaking" CD/LP/Track Review Acoustically Speaking
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 6, 2016
Read "Earprint" CD/LP/Track Review Earprint
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 14, 2016
Read "Tilt" CD/LP/Track Review Tilt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 18, 2017
Read "Sleight Of Hand" CD/LP/Track Review Sleight Of Hand
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 8, 2017

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!