29 May 2022

Los Angeles

A previously unpublished amazing live performance by Horace Tapscott With The Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra records in 1998 with a heavy line-up including Phil Ranelin, Dwight Trible and the Choir The Great Voice Of UGMAA.

“I went by Horace's home. His mood was somber, meditative. The first thing he said was, 'You know, Fela passed. He's the one person I regret not having a chance to meet.”

Damn, a collab between the two would have been awesome. -Saff03

'Pianist, arranger and composer Horace Tapscott is one of the great unsung figures in jazz history. A bandleader and community activist in Los Angeles with a career that spanned the late fifties to the late nineties he founded the large ensemble The Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra which featured future legends like Arthur Blythe, David Murray and Butch Morris. This particular album shows the group in performance with a vocal chorus: The Great Voice of UGMAA.

This is a wonderful recording and an important one, shining much deserved light on this unjustly ignored master. There is a first rate booklet included with the CD version of the album that has informative liner notes, song lyrics great photographs, making this an exemplary package all around.'

'Release of this previously unpublished live performance featuring the legendary Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, led by its founder and mastermind, Horace Tapscott. Tapscott's Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra was one of the most transformative, forward-thinking and straight-up heavy big bands to have played jazz in the 1960s and 1970s. First formed as the Underground Musicians Association in the early 1960s, Tapscott always wanted his group to be a community project. From their base in Watts, UGMA got down at the grassroots. The group was renamed the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra in 1971, and soon after they established a monthly residency at the Immanuel United Church of Christ which ran for over a decade, while still playing all over LA and beyond. This album features Horace leading the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (with Michael Session, saxophone; Phil Ranelin, trombone; Alan Hines, Trevor Ware, Louis Large, bass; Donald Dean, drums; Najite Agindotan, conga; Bill Madison, percussion; Dwight Trible, vocals) with an ensemble of 12 voices, the Great Voice of UGMAA, under Trible's direction. The album includes liner notes by Steven Isoardi, song lyrics and photos from the performance by Warren Berman.'

Newly issued live recording from 1998 sheds light on a crucial L.A. jazz figure who inspired Kamasi Washington and other future stars

'Unless you’re a hardcore jazz aficionado, you might not know the name Horace Tapscott. But to several generations of L.A. musicians — including breakout saxophone star Kamasi Washington — the late pianist and composer is a near-legendary figure.

“I grew up in Leimert Park and his footprint is all over that area,” Washington said in 2015 of Tapscott’s importance to his South L.A. neighborhood. “We all learned his music and his philosophies from the elders who played with him that are still with us. Horace is one of the most important figures in the foundation of music in L.A., from both a purely musically and socially conscious perspective. My dad took me to hear [Tapscott’s] Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra many times and I played with them after Horace passed away.”

If Washington’s sound — specifically the large-scale, spirit-lifting jazz-meets-gospel-meets-R&B documented on his 2015 breakthrough The Epic and its 2018 follow-up Heaven and Earth — has a patron saint, it would have to be Tapscott. From the early Sixties through his death in 1999, the pianist helped to anchor a community-driven L.A. scene, bringing together musicians, singers and poets in both the Arkestra (the name nods to a group led by Tapscott’s like-minded predecessor Sun Ra) and an umbrella group called UGMAA, the Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension.

A new archival release, Why Don’t You Listen?, captures the ensemble that inspired Washington and his peers in the form of a 1998 Arkestra concert at the L.A. County Museum of Art, reportedly the final time Tapscott was healthy enough to play piano with the band live. Released by Dark Tree, a French label named for a Tapscott piece, it joins a wealth of other Tapscott and UGMAA work now available digitally.

The album’s near-15-minute title track makes for a fine introduction to Tapscott’s expansive approach. While much of the Arkestra’s available output focuses on the leader’s intricate instrumental writing, which ranges from funky to free, “Why Don’t You Listen?” spotlights the voice. On the piece, co-written by Tapscott and Linda Hill, a nine-member choir known as the Great Voice of UGMAA — directed by Dwight Trible, who remains committed to Tapscott’s mission — sings out stirring variations on a central question: “Why didn’t you listen to the sounds of truth?”

After a brief, expressionistic piano intro, the vocalists sing out a somber opening (“Go forth my seed / And spread the truth …”). From there, the tempo picks up, and the singers begin calling out a series of jazz icons — “Why didn’t you listen to Bird and Trane … ?/ Why didn’t you listen to Lady Day?” — over an insistent pulse, complete with hand percussion, booming brass and emphatic shouts. Around the five-minute mark, the piece breaks into brisk post-bop swing, with the soprano sax of Michael Session swooping over top. A solo vocal episode and a slashing drum feature by Donald Dean lead back into the “Why didn’t you listen …?” refrain.

The track’s blend of somber, gospel-like textures with upbeat, unfettered improv does have precedents in jazz — Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, grand Charles Mingus works like “Meditations on Integration” — but Tapscott clearly developed his own rich aesthetic. Throughout Why Don’t You Listen?, it’s easy to hear why up-and-comers like Washington were so struck by his vision — and following that thread to Washington’s own work, equally plain to hear the echo of an earlier L.A. jazz revolution.' -Hank Shteamer


'Yes, Horace Tapscott's work was largely a holdover from the days of the Black Consciousness movement. (Its resolute mix of modal, spiritual, avant-garde, and Afro-jazz might have fit well on Strata-East Records if Tapscott hadn't been in L.A., about as westerly as it gets.) Yet if anything, the pianist, composer, and bandleader's music and message they re inextricable have only become more urgent in the 20 years since his death. Why Don't You Listen?, a live performance at the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts from July 1998, is as fresh and vital as if it were made yesterday.

Tapscott would be dead seven months later, of the lung cancer that was already ravaging his body this night at the museum. It didn't impede his inventiveness or momentum, let alone that of the 10-piece version of his Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra or 12-voice Great Voice of UGMAA choir. They thoroughly recompose Ellington's ''Caravan'' as an Afrobeat incantation. Dwight Trible's shouting lead vocal is matched in intensity by a screaming alto saxophone solo from Michael Session but it's the rhythmic troika of drummer Donald Dean, conguero Najite Agindotan, and percussionist Bill Madison who hold the steady rolling sway. They're even more firmly in command (though they share duties with another, bass-playing trio: Alan Hines, Trevor Ware, and Louis Large) on ''Fela Fela,'' then a brand-new tribute to the recently deceased Fela Kuti, with a harder-accented groove that carries the choir's joyful Yoruba singing.

The museum's visitors don't seem particularly attentive; their audible chatter makes Tapscott's ''Why Don't You Listen?'' seem particularly on-the-nose. Perhaps frustration fuels that song's especially fiery performance, with Tapscott's piano percolating even more than Agindotan's congas and the choir rising to a howl at the midpoint (interpolated by a melancholy solo vocal from Carolyn Whitaker). By its close, the audience responds fervently; you will too.'

Michael J. West --JazzTimes Magazine


1. aiee! The Phantom 16:11
2. Caravan 13:34
3. Fela Fela 14:06
4. Why Don't You Listen? 14:21
5. Little Africa 14:48

Notes
Incl. Pdf

Recorded live on Friday, July 24, 1998 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA,)

THE PAN AFRIKAN PEOPLES ARKESTRA

Horace Tapscott, conductor, pianist
Michael Session, soprano saxophone
Phil Ranelin, trombone
Alan Hines, bass
Trevor Ware, bass
Louis Large, bass
Donald Dean, drums
Najite Agindotan, congas
Bill Madison, percussion
Dwight Trible, vocals

THE GREAT VOICE OF UGMAA

Afifa Amatullah
Amina Amatullah
Donte Chambers
Ndugu ''Jingles'' Chandler
Brenda Hearn
Chini Kopano
Torre Reese
Maria Rose
Tina
Denise Tribble
Dwight Trible, directo
Carolyn Whitaker