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Horace Tapscott: Live at Lobero, Vol. 1

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Seven years after his premature death, the tirelessly innovative pianist Horace Tapscott remains something of a secret. This long-awaited reissue of a 1981 performance will undoubtedly please his modest yet ardent fan base. But the highly charged atmosphere and outstanding trio interplay also make this disc an easy recommendation for adventurous listeners of all stripes.

The opener, “Inception,” is a lengthy piece left off the original LP. A meditative African percussion jam develops over the first ten minutes, eventually giving way to a series of soundscapes. Tapscott’s piano churns up stormy, tumbling waves, then recedes to bleak tragedy. Bassist Roberto Miranda, using his bow throughout the piece, renders an expressive sketch full of low turbulence, and Sonship Theus is virtuosic and eloquent on drums. Each player picks up ideas from the others, often repeating and evolving rhythmic phrases.

“Sketches of Drunken Mary” moves from a relaxed dance to a cyclone, with pianistic swirls and leaps, sour yet muscular bass work and a volcanic drum solo. “Raisha’s New Hip Dance” finds Tapscott alone, drawing hints of ragtime, mechanistic trills and chattery descending phrases from a moody, elusive theme.

“Dark Tree” is an electrifying and fitting closer. Growing from a four-note riff and a conga-line beat, the piece soon finds the full trio slapping the rhythm around. Miranda and Theus each take arresting, extended solos until that initial riff claws its way back, finally emerging to ride the CD home on a triumphant groove.