Horace Tapscott ‘Live at Lobero’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

The Pure Pleasure label continues to explore the Nimbus West catalogue, stepping into 2020 with a brilliant reissue of Horace Tapscott ‘Live at The Lobero Theater’ recorded on November 12th 1981 in Santa Barbara, California.

Horace Tapscott is joined by fellow musicians Roberto Miguel Miranda on bass and percussionist Sonship Theus for this special occasion. All the pieces except for ‘Inception’ were taken from the original LP ‘Live at Lobero Volume 1’, released on the Nimbus West record label. Both Horace Tapscott and Roberto Miguel Miranda were an integral part of the label’s roster, outlook and direction, bringing together musicians with a serious dedication to not just the art but the important grassroots work that was so important for the community of L.A. They were true influencers, musicians and teachers. It was a volatile time on the streets of L.A so their inspiring projects were of incredible importance. All three musicians laid great importance on their contribution to local work and you can sense the respect which would have surrounded them wherever they played. The music is tirelessly inventive with a much larger sound than you would expect from a trio outing. But above all, it’s music of the highest quality which really moves you.

The music begins with a meditative feel. Percussionist Sonship Theus and Roberto Miguel Mirando sketching out the foundations with a rich mix of dynamics on the gently building ‘Inception’. The first 10 minutes feature Sonship’s colourful array of instrumentation with chimes, bow and percussion creating a building from a silent presence to a sustained intensity before Horace Tapscott enthrals with an endless stream of innovative playing. Bassist Roberto Miranda and Sonship Theus both produce lengthy captivating solos before Horace Tapscott adds a more soulful approach towards the finish of this 30 minutes composition. As you would expect with any Horace Tapscott piece they are real works of art with complex natures that always touch you.

‘Sketches of Drunken Mary’ is a warm and evocative composition written in memory of a local drunk lady who lived in Horace Tapscott’s Houston community when he was a teenager. The piece is split between ‘Mary at Church’ and ‘Mary at Sunset’, building into a driving percussive piece with the reflective harmonies of Horace Tapscott in tandem with Roberto Miranda’s deep complex tone on the bass. It’s a really great track that grows with each listen and kind of reveals the community-minded spirit of all three musicians who’ve been integral to the continuation of Los Angeles musical heritage and influence on the younger jazz musicians in the area and the workshops. The music switches from a relaxed pace to a whirlwind.

One of Horace Tapscott’s most memorable compositions is ‘Dark Tree’ and here the musicians yet again create a much fuller sound than expected from a trio, filling the room with a sustained build-up, with Sonship’s percussive twists and turns acting as a bold leverage for Horace Tapscott’s fully flighted intensity and direction. The composition is another example of Horace Tapscott’s illusive artistry and the energetic interplay between all three musicians at work. The solos are inventive and almost excavatory with the heavy bass sound of Roberto Miguel Miranda bringing an inspirational style of playing to the album.

‘Raisha’s New Hip Dance’ is reminiscent of some of the great solo albums Horace Tapscott released for the Nimbus West Label, and here the commentary is one of reflective nature with contemplative tones, weighted and synonymous with his social message and incredible creativity. Check out his solo rendition of Roy Porters’ ‘Jessica’ on volume 6 of The Horace Tapscott Sessions as another insight of his solo performance works.

For a greater understanding of Horace Tapscott, the musicians and the label, the book ‘Songs of the Unsung: The Musical and Social Journey of Horace Tapscott’ is a really interesting read. ‘Live at Lobero’ is another important jazz album and each listen brings something unexpected. Highly recommended.

Mark Jones