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Horace Tapscott Film Screening

Horace Tapscott Documentary PosterHORACE TAPSCOTT: MUSICAL GRIOT a film by Barbara McCullough

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017, 7pm

International House, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

For Info/Tickets


Every community has a story and that story usually emerges from the efforts of just a few individuals. In Los Angeles, the composer, pianist, band leader and community activist, Horace Tapscott was the catalyst of that story. For over three decades, Tapscott wrote, taught and performed music with his Arkestra; which served as a launching pad for such artists as Arthur Blythe, Patrice Rushen, Stanley Crouch, Butch Morris, Wilber Morris, David Murray, Nate Morgan and Adele Sebastian. The current saxophone superstar, Kamasi Washington who is probably best known for his collaboartions with hiphop artist, Kendrick Lamar, is a byproduct of the musical programs that Horace Tapscott developed.


On Tuesday, September 12th, The International House, The Scribe Video Center, the University of Pennsylvania Cinema & Media Studies Program and Philadelphia Jazz Project will present the film, Horace Tapscott Musical Griot, directed by Barbara McCullough. The film will be preceded by the short documentary, John Coltrane Place: Giant Steps of Philadelphia, and a live discussion with Barbara McCullough will follow.


One of the event's co-organizers is Josslyn Luckett, a PhD candidate in Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow. She is also a screenwriter and occasional preacher, educated at Harvard Divinity School, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and U.C. Berkeley. A former story editor for The Steve Harvey Show, Luckett's original screenplay, Love Song was directed by Julie Dash and produced by MTV. Luckett's research areas include and combine cinema studies and jazz studies with a particular focus on the multiracial arts communities of Los Angeles. Josslyn Luckett blogs on jazz, trouble, and spirituality at JazzHallelujah.


Horace Tapscott 2PJP Spoke with Josslyn Luckett about the film and about Horace Tapscott.

PJP: Can you tell us about the upcoming film screening? Briefly describe your direction, your goals, as the creator/producer of the upcoming event?


Josslyn Luckett: I have been incredibly fortunate as a doctoral candidate in Africana Studies at UPenn to work with the Scribe Video Center on a number of occasions to host filmmakers associated with the “L.A. Rebellion” including McCullough, Billy Woodberry and Zeinabu irene Davis. While these Afro-diasporic filmmakers who attended UCLA film school in the 1970s and 80s (other Rebellion filmmakers include Julie Dash, Charles Burnett, Haile Gerima, Alile Sharon Larkin and Larry Clark) are often associated with their trailblazing work from those decades, it has been important to Scribe and to me to highlight the fact that these vanguard directors are still producing new, vibrant, award winning films. In 2017, Horace Tapscott: Musical Griot won Best Feature Documentary Audience Award at the Pan African Film Festival and was nominated for Best Diaspora Feature Documentary at the African Movie Academy Awards in Lagos, Nigeria.


Because of the subject of the film--musician, community activist, and founder of the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra, Horace Tapscott--it struck me as important to connect this screening with Philadelphia’s jazz community and who better to partner with than the Philadelphia Jazz Project.


PJP: Tell us about the musician and subject of this documentary, Horace Tapscott?


Josslyn Luckett:  Horace Tapscott (1934-99), lovingly described by Los Angeles poet/activist Kamau Daáood as “pianist, arranger, composer, mentor, community arts activist, beloved patriarch,” was born in Houston, Texas and migrated to Los Angeles, California at the age of nine. As the story goes, upon arrival in Los Angeles by train, his mother took him to meet his music teacher before going to where they would live.


Horace Tapscott 3Black-listed in the 1960’s because of his political affiliations, police forced him to stop playing during the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and accused his music of causing people to riot. Tapscott mentored three generations of accomplished Los Angeles jazz musicians, but chose to remain there where he composed, performed and shed his wisdom on music and life with his “Arkestra.”  In McCullough’s film, Horace Tapscott: Musical Griot, jazz icons, the late Don Cherry and recently deceased, Arthur Blythe share their reflections on their shared music heritage with Mr. Tapscott. He was a friend and school-mate of flutist, Eric Dolphy whose teachers offered their own musical knowledge if they committed to pass on that knowledge to preserve the art form. Musical Griot, is told in the manner of the griot, the storyteller, who in West African societies maintain the legacy, knowledge, and history of their people in oral and musical form. 


PJP: Tell us about the filmmaker, Barbara McCullough?


Josslyn Luckett: Barbara McCullough is a filmmaker who emerged from the UCLA Los Angeles Rebellion experience to create works emblematic of the reality of African American life seen beyond the usual stereotypic view. Her UCLA contemporaries who also worked on Horace Tapscott Musical Griot include: Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry and Julie Dash to name a few along with Johnny Simmons and Al Santana. Her other projects include – Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections On Ritual Space, is a 58 minute video that her mentor, Shirley Clarke proclaimed, “the title wouldn’t fit the marque”, Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite Of Purification, World Saxophone Quartet and Fragments. Her works strive to extract the essence of the seemingly mundane to expose its magic and poetry. Horace is another part of that examination.

PJP: Why is the screening important?


Josslyn Luckett: On a personal note, having returned to Los Angeles in the mid 1990s, I was fortunate enough to witness the power of Tapscott’s music, mentoring and soul force in the city of Los Angeles and most specifically in the community of Leimert Park. I spent many nights just feet away from the maestro at Billy Higgin’s World Stage…where Tapscott would often perform with Higgins and also John Coltrane’s former bassist, Dr. Art Davis. Dr. Davis is only one of many connecting factors between the two musical souls. I think the ongoing conversation the Philadelphia Jazz Project is having about how musicians like Coltrane and like Tapscott can gather, inspire and generate new and liberatory ideas about how arts and culture define, direct and challenge our communities and cities is one of the most vital conversations we can be having at this historical moment. McCullough’s portrait of Tapscott will assist us in deepening this vital conversation.


PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, Why this music?


Josslyn Luckett: I go back to Kamau Daáood for this question. He writes in his epic poem about Horace Tapscott: entitled, PAPA, The Lean Griot, "I do not fit into form, I create form."


We need jazz now more than ever, because we need new forms. And in order to create new forms, we ought to bear witness to the great form creators of this musical tradition in documentary films, yes, and as often as possible, LIVE!


HORACE TAPSCOTT: MUSICAL GRIOT a film by Barbara McCullough

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017, 7pm

International House, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

For Info/Tickets


On a Philly note, local pianist and visual artist, Raymond A. King migrated to Los Angeles in the early 1960s and studied with Horace Tapscott for a number of years. Check out Raymond A. King's performance below.



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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the CultureWorks | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Wyncote Foundation.


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