Available on vinyl for the first time in 40 years, Outernational Sounds proudly presents a cornerstone document from the Los Angeles jazz underground, Flight 17 – the first appearance on record of the legendary Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, led by their founder and mastermind, Horace Tapscott.
"The Arkestra would allow the creativity in the community to come together, would allow people to recognize each other as one people and ask, “Now what can we do to make this community better? What can we do for this community together?”...That’s how the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra – the Ark – began, with the knowledge that we wanted to preserve the black arts in the community."
Horace Tapscott’s Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (P.A.P.A.) was one of the most transformative, forward-thinking and straight-up heavy big bands to have played jazz in the 1960s and 1970s. Countless musicians passed through its ranks, and in Tapscott it was led by a musical visionary who should be ranked with the very greatest names in the music. If P.A.P.A. doesn’t have the interstellar rep of that other famous Arkestra, and if the name Tapscott doesn’t ring bells like Monk or Tyner, there’s a reason why: in an industry dominated by record labels, a band that doesn’t record doesn’t count. And the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra didn’t record for nearly twenty years. But recording success was never their concern – they weren’t about that.
First formed as the Underground Musicians Association in the early 1960s, Tapscott always wanted his group to be a community project. From their base in Watts, UGMA got down at the grassroots. They played for the people, organising fundraisers in parks and coffee houses, hosting teach-ins and workshops for young and old, and mixing it with radical theatre groups, firebrand poets, political radicals, Black separatists, community groups and churches. They lived communally, supporting each other and their people, and built an ark for the Black arts in the heart of the city. The group was renamed the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra in 1971, and soon after they established a monthly residency at the Immanuel United Church of Christ which ran for over a decade, while still playing all over LA and beyond. But through all this, they never released a note of music.
It was the intervention of Tom Albach, a fan of Tapscott and the group, that finally got them on wax. Determined that their work should be documented, Albach founded Nimbus Records specifically to release the music of Tapscott, the Arkestra, and the individuals that comprised it. The first recording sessions in early 1978 yielded enough material for two albums, and the first release was Flight 17. From the surging avant-gardism of Herbie Baker’s title track to the laid- back summertime groove of Kamonta Lawrence Polk’s ‘Maui’, or Roberto Miranda’s uptempo Latin jam ‘Horacio’, Flight 17 showcased the radical voices of the Arkestra’s members. Led out by Tapscott’s hard-swinging piano, this is the first flight on wax of the West Coasts’ foundational community big band – energised, hip and together. Open up the gates and prepare for departure!
This edition of Flight 17 contains two tracks previously only available on the 1997 CD edition: ‘Coltrane Medley’ and ‘Village Dance’, recorded live at the Immanuel United Church of Christ. It is released as a limited vinyl-only edition on a 180g pressing by Pallas. Fully licensed from Nimbus West founder Tom Albach.