Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Origin Day to the Lean Griot!

[Photo by Adam Beinash]

Today would have been Horace Elva Tapscott's 81st birthday. The Beast attended the small tribute concert at Leimert Park's World Stage last Friday, which poet Kamau Daaood dubbed "our church service." One of Tapscott's last proteges Bobby West -- and whose Ellington-colliding-with-Monk piano style most closely resembles that of his late mentor -- acted as the de facto Master of Ceremonies and headed up a house trio that included Trevor "Who? What?" Ware on bass and Fritz "Von Blitz" Wise on drums.

Highlights: saxophonist Michael Session's furious skronking; Dwight Trible's bracing vocal swoops on "Mothership"; Jesse Sharps pulling a bamboo flute out of his pants to add a bookending prologue-coda for "As A Child" and "Isle of Celia"; trombonist Phil Ranelin and saxophonist Mercedes Smith joining Jai Jae's drum line on "The Dark Tree" (which earned a Standing O from Tapscott's granddaughter Raisha). The unexpected high point? Right before reading a poetic tribute (which he redubbed "Trevor Ware Standing Out on Crenshaw at 3am in a G-String"), Kamau Daaood sat down at the piano (!!) for a brief solo piece that wowed those who never knew he could play. "Horace was like smoke," Daaood told the crowd before he did this (only the third time in his life that he's played publicly played). "You could walk down the street and poke your head in and he would be playing piano by himself. You walk back down the street a minute later and look in and he's gone. Just like that." Dwight Trible added: "Horace never showed us what he was going through; he was too busy showing us that everything was OK and we were all cool. And he never, never, never, EVER told us what to play."

Go here to watch a 2014 interview with filmmaker/educator Larry Clark, who directed Tapscott and his Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra in his 1977 underground-jazz film Passing Through. Go here for NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead's review of the reissue of Tapscott's 1969 Flying Dutchman classic The Giant Is Awakened. You can buy the CD here.

Horace Tapscott was a magic wand
A musical Curandero & a harmonic Medicine Man
The Man was a priceless visionary
He had a gift
An intuitive, uncanny gift
That peeled away years of protective excuses
And saw
The most powerful creative parts of us
Parts that we were still too afraid to look at
He instinctively knew
How to make us face
The artistic beauty buried deep down inside ourselves
A forbidden creative beauty
He showed us how to grind our anxieties
Into melodic healing tonics
And dance away the demons of poverty
Because of Horace’s belief in us
We drowned our shame & the fear of our own ingenuity
Under an ocean of creativity
He wordlessly encouraged us
To play with a disciplined abandon
And share
The wealth of the jewels hidden inside our Souls
Horace forced us
To fertilize every one of the weeds in our dreams
To build on all the wreckage
Of slavery, of hunger, of racism, of less than
And because of him we bloomed
Horace Tapscott was & is an alchemist
And we are & we always be
His gift to the world
We are Tapscott’s Babies
We are the blood of his dream come true
The living realization of his harmonic vision
We are Avant-Bop in real time
The Children of Horace Tapscott


  1. How did you know about this show? Do you get their newsletter?

  2. Huh. I don't see anything about it on their facebook page. But I'm not a facebook guy anyway. I just emailed them...