CULTURAL WORKINGS

Welcome to THE CULTURAL WORKER, a blog dedicated to arts of the people, from the radical avant garde and free jazz to dissident folk forms, punk and popular arts . The Cultural Worker celebrates revolutionary creativity and features a variety of essays, reviews, fiction, reportage, poetry and musings through the internet pen of this creative writer, journalist, musician and cultural organizer. Scroll straight down and you'll also find an extensive historical Photo Exhibit of cultural workers in action, followed by a series of Radical Arts Links. The features herein will be unabashedly partisan---make no mistake about that. The concept of the cultural worker as a force of fearless creativity, of social change, indeed as an artistic arm of radicalism, has always been left-wing when applied with any degree of honesty at all. No revolutionary act can be truly complete in the absence of art, no progressive campaign can retain its message sans the daring drumbeat of invention, no act of dissent can stand so strong as that which counts the writers, musicians, painters, dancers, actors, photographers, film and performance artists within its ranks. Here's to the history and legacy of cultural work in the throes of the good fight...
john pietaro

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Film review : HORACE TAPSCOTT: MUSICAL GRIOT

"NYC Jazz Record" November, 2017

HORACE TAPSCOTT: MUSICAL GRIOT
Directed and produced by Barbara McCullough

Film review by John Pietaro

Horace Tapscott may be one of the music’s best kept secrets. Coming of age in an LA far removed from the “cool” West Coast of Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz, the pianist/composer forged an ethnically-identified, politically fearless vision. His leadership cast a post-modern genre that foresaw much of jazz’ avant garde as well as its infusion into Black Liberation. By the late ‘60s, Tapscott’s Pan-African People's Arkestra served as the house band for the Black Panther Party. The late Will Connell, many years Tapscott’s music librarian, in later discussions with anyone who’d listen, championed the scope of the Union of God's Musicians and Artists' Ascension, the leader’s educational foundry of 1961. Tapscott’s was an art of pride and legacy; it’s no small irony that bold activism led to a career shredded by blacklisting.

Barbara McCullough’s documentary focuses on Tapscott the inspiration as much as the musician. Culled together from interview and concert footage shot over a 25-year period, the tale of this woefully under-recognized artist comes to light; the filmmaker’s is the silent voice as Tapscott tells his own story over decades. Sections of the film stem from a lecture the pianist gave in the 1990s, interspersed with discussion segments between Tapscott, journalist Greg Tate, poet K. Curtis Lyle, Don Cherry and Dr. Samuel Browne, the legendary music teacher at LA’s Jefferson High School who mentored Dexter Gordon, Chico Hamilton and a phalanx of others including Tapscott. The concept of guiding the next generation was ingrained into the pianist early on: “My responsibility primarily was preservation of the art. The Black arts in particular. Something had to be done so you can touch and feel it….”
Tapscott’s vision into the next stage the music would take, including large ensemble free improvisation and multi-disciplinary collaborations, is evident. And his Underground Musicians Association, a heartily experimental aggregation, pioneered the later DIY concept. Of this indie effort, Tapscott stated: “We called it garage music: the kind of thing you only play for yourselves. The police came and stopped us, said we were getting the people worked up”. Appropriately, the radicalism inherent in both Tapscott’s mentorship and performances are established herein. He stated: “The music changed behind the bombing of the church in Alabama. We started playing music by Black composers. It helped free our people. This hooked us up with the Black Panthers, Angela Davis, H Rapp Brown…and the FBI and CIA”.
Considering the resurgence in revolutionary philosophy, Horace Tapscott’s music—now free of Cold War shackles--may finally be having its day.


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