Amoeblog

Requiem for The Phantom: marking a decade since the passing of the legendary Horace Tapscott

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, February 17, 2009 12:00am | Post a Comment
horace tapscott dark treeI remember lying on a couch in my room in Oakland, sometime in either 1989 or 1990. Afternoon light was pouring in my window and I was in a hypnogogic state, somewhere between waking and dreaming. My mind was occupied with the vision of long and dark brown hands holding what looked to be a piece of blue glass. The agile hands turned the glass over and over again, and with each turning, facets appeared, polished and refracting light. The glass was becoming more and more ornate and I remember thinking that it was "perfecting." Suddenly, I sat bolt upright, realizing that I was having a visual experience of the music I was listening to at the moment: The title track from the recently issued LP by Horace Tapscott, Dark Tree.

Tapscott was working a theme on the piano, turning it over and over, and every time it came around, there was more central avenue sounds jazz in los angelesbeauty in it. And every time it came around, there was less of anything superfluous. The theme, under his long, dark fingers, was "perfecting."

Released again in 2000 by Swiss Hatology label on double limited edition CD with its companion volume, Dark Tree 1 & 2 is a document of what I have come to consider one of the most important jazz quartets of all time. Featuring Tapscott on piano, John Carter on clarinet, Cecil McBee on contrabass and Andrew Cyrille on drums, it is a fleeting glimpse into not only a rare recording by this astounding group, but a rare small group recording for Tapscott, altogether.

Continue reading...

Ornette Coleman & James Blood Ulmer 1974

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, January 25, 2009 11:21pm | Post a Comment
I was thinking about James Blood Ulmer, who is one of my favorite guitar players. As great as musicians John Coltrane and Miles Davis were (and still are), they have many legions of imitators who sound just like them. I love Ulmer for the same reason I love Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy; The minute you hear Dolphy, you know it's Dolphy. No one can copy their style. It's both out and in, rooted in church blues, structured in classical music and improvisational all at the same time.

I was already a fan of James Blood Ulmer a few years back as I was playing legendary organist John Patton's album, Accent On The Blues. The song was a breezy soul jazz piece that suddenly came to life with a crazy guitar solo. I didn't even have to read the credits to know it was Ulmer, but I checked anyway. Sure enough, it was him.

I didn't know much about James Blood Ulmer's work with Ornette Coleman. I searching the internet and stumbled upon this video.The song is called "Theme from a Symphony from Dancing in Your Head." The band is Ornette on soprano sax, Blood Ulmer on guitar, Norris Sirone Jones on bass, and the late great Billy Higgins on drums. It's from 1974. I love the way the song starts. It sounds like Blood Ulmer is playing a Velvet Underground song under Ornette's sax line. Together, both musicians compliment each other as they are both heavily rooted in the blues. It is as beautiful as it is abstract. I love it!


Today James Blood Ulmer's music is less jazz and more funk/blues oriented and that great tone as morphed a bit. He sounds what I'd imagine Hendrix would have sounded like now if he was still alive. Check out some of his newer tracks on his myspace page.

Eric Dolphy

Posted by Whitmore, June 20, 2008 04:04pm | Post a Comment

80 years ago today, in 1928, the legendary jazz musician and groundbreaking force of nature Eric Dolphy was born in Los Angeles. He was one of guiding forces who piloted the "new thing" of jazz though the late fifties and the 1960’s. His unique improvisational style intoned wide intervals, extended techniques, scorching intensity and unexpected sonic explorations on alto sax, clarinets, and flute. Such sounds were seldom heard before and seldom sound as accomplished since.

Educated at Los Angeles City College, he walked the fine line between traditional/mainstream jazz and the avant-garde like few musicians could. Though his work is often classified as simply “free jazz,” Dolphy’s playing was more then just his own idiosyncratic personal voice. He touched on the history of most jazz styles, from New Orleans to bop to third stream; he experimented with various non-Western music and 20th century classical ideology, pioneering extensions as both a soloist and as a jazz composer. His influence is still felt today.

During his short time on the scene Dolphy played with almost every great jazz musician of the day including, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Chico Hamilton, Oliver Nelson, Max Roach, Gerald Wilson, Abbey Lincoln, Gunther Schuller, and Andrew Hill. In his own bands Dolphy included the likes of Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Richard Davis, Ron Carter, Jaki Byard, Roy Haynes, Mal Waldron, Booker Little and Freddie Hubbard.

At the age of 36 Eric Dolphy died in a diabetic coma in Berlin on June 29th, 1964. Dolphy was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame shortly after his death.

Continue reading...