Saturday, February 06, 2010

Horace Tapscott, The Dark Tree, hatOLOGY

New Hat Hut reissue of a 1989 live recording maybe legendary only among fans, this reminds me of Miles' second great group with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock in its level of sophistication (see Live at the Plugged Nickle) and its skirting of the limits of conventional jazz without drifitng into late Coltrane or Art Ensemble of Chicago territory. John Carter's clarinet and Tapscott's piano are essentially classical, albeit in a jazz context, on parts of the first set version of The Dark Tree, a 20-minute opus that I think maintains the intensity of a Jazz Messengers' performance (pick one, with Art Blakey driving they were pretty much all intense). In this case, Andrew Cyrille on drums and Cecil McBee on bass lay the perfect base for Tapscott and Carter, and get in some good solos as well. It's particularly interesting to hear Cyrille play in more of an "inside" context than usual for the free jazz drumming icon. He swings throughout. Blakey would have been down with Sandy and Niles on the second CD, too. Carter makes me sorry the Messengers never used a clarinetist. I hear a different Art, Tatum, in Tapscott's solo.

On Sketches of Drunken Mary, Tapscott shows some Monk influence in a lengthy and impressive solo but at a speed a lot faster than Monk typically employed. McBee's solo response to Tapscott's call is just great bass playing in which he employs the instrument's entire palette judiciously. Likewise on CD two's Barvarian Mist. The level of synchronicity Cyrille and McBee generate with Tapscott on Lino's Pad stuns. Listen for Tapscott's quoting of Greensleeves around seven minutes in; there's a Sonny Rollins-style cleverness in the way he slips it into the mix. Carter playing the clarinet strikes me as a window on what Artie Shaw would have sounded like had he played in the 1970s, '80s and '90s instead of the '30s, '40s and, briefly, '50s. Until Don Byron and Anat Cohen came along, I can't think of any clarinet player both this skilled and modern sounding. One for Lately features Tapscott (well comped by Carter) in a pianistic display of Coltrane-like sheets of sound. At the end of 2010, I may look back on this as my favorite purchase.

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