Horace Tapscott Conducting The Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra ‘Flight 17’ LP (Outernational Sounds) 5/5

This is one of a recent series of reissues of Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra albums, conducted by Horace Tapscott, who is increasingly, although belatedly, being recognised as a key figure of black art and activism from the 60s onwards. Consensus is this lack of recognition is from being based on the unfashionable West Coast, although it appears that it was never really a priority to me. I personally only became aware of them when listening to Desert Fairy Princess on Soul Jazz’s ‘Soul of a Nation’ compilation from a couple of years ago.

This release is a reissue of the 1978 album. Although, it has two more live tracks than the original, ‘Coltrane Medley’ and ‘Village Dance Revisited’, which featured on the 1990s CD version.

The album commences with the magnificent title track. It is effectively in three parts. It begins with unaccompanied pianos. Then the ensemble embark on a dense, circular and mechanical movement, a platform for horns and pianos to swoop and dive. We return to Earth with a beautiful solitary flute. The second track, the piano-centric, ‘Breeze’ is different to ‘Flight 17’ in intensity and also brevity but it is quietly as daring as the title track. It concludes with a moving lush wash from the full Arkestra, which sound almost like strings only more substantial. These first two tracks take full advantage of the texture of the unusual mix of the various instruments. Next though, it’s a significant change with ‘Horacio’, which is an exuberant Latin infused jingle. It’s unlike anything else on the album. I like to think it was named after the conductor’s Cuban alter-ego! ‘Clarisse’ gracefully switches between slow blues and bop and is bookended with a grand vaguely East Asian theme. The busy bass line introduces ‘Maui’. As with the previous track, it moves between a number of contrasting melody lines and rhythms but there’s still space for a tuneful sax solo. The extra tracks were recorded live in Immanuel Unit Church of Christ in Los Angeles. ‘Coltrane Medley’ is as stated in the title. It contains some outstanding solo piano. ‘Village Dance Revisited’ follows which is an intensive percussive treat! As mentioned earlier, the unusual mix of instruments create a wonderful smooth texture which is used to good effect towards the end of this tune. Another high point of this album and exciting conclusion to the set.

This is a must-have album. I think the first two tracks on their own make this release essential. After a quick look at Discogs, I saw their market place only has one original copy on offer and that’s on at well over a ton. It’s also without the two extra tracks so this Outernational Sounds release will be excellent value for money too!

Kevin Ward

Read also:
Horace Tapscott with the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra ‘Live At I.U.C.C.’ LP (Outernational Sounds) 5/5
Horace Tapscott Conducting The Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra ‘The Call’ LP (Outernational Sounds) 5/5