Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Songs of the Unsung: The Musical and Social Journey of Horace Tapscott

By Horace Tapscott

Music Genre: Jazz

Horace Tapscott was a musical pioneer stretching the boundaries of jazz. He was also an organizer and educator in Los Angeles that stressed ethnic and community pride and became a father figure to scores of Los Angeles musicians who may not have fared as well without a mentor. Yet most Americans , even most Angelenos, have never heard of him. His autobiography is a well written, enjoyable look at his journeys from the birthplace of Houston to his last days as a respected figure in LA and even the international arena.He writes with frankness about his struggles with racism. He tells about the turbulent sixties and the Watts riots, relating with some bitterness the police and establishment attempts to put down his organization which simply existed to create a music that instilled pride in his black community. But mostly, he writes about the music of the time. He writes about his experiences with jazz giants like Lionel Hampton, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman. I found the book especially exciting because I lived in Los Angeles during the 70s and 80s when Tapscott started to get the recognition he deserved. I knew some of the local artists he writes about such as John Carter, Bobby Bradford and Vinny Golia. I was very surprised to actually see my high school band teacher, Stewart Aspen, who moved from Jefferson to San Fernando High in the 60s, get a mention! My only very minor complaint is that Tapscott assumes that his reader knows what certain musical terms means like seventh position on the trombone, or assumes the reader already know the accomplishments of giants like Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman. But any one who doesn't know this is probably not going to read this fascinating account of an important movement in 20th century jazz anyway. Recommended to fans of modern Jazz, aficionados of Los Angeles history, and people interested in the socio-politcal movements of the late 20th century.

Background CD: Horace Tapscott - Songs of the Unsung

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