Recent years has seen much increased attention placed on Nimbus West Records, a somewhat under-the-radar jazz label, and its key artistic fulcrum figure, Horace Tapscott. Under Tapscott's guidance, he encouraged and schooled many leading musicians of the Los Angeles jazz scene ad fostered an environment in which some amazing talent flourished.
Among Tapscott's protégés was a young flautist and saxophonist, Dadisi Komolafe. Born Arthur Wells, Komolafe regarded Tapscott as his mentor and became involved with the Cross Roads Art Academy, sponsored by the UGAMA (Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension) Foundation, both established by Tapscott, and a vanguard to a crucial community-centred black arts movement in Los Angeles.
From the various community based musicians workshops and educational exchange opportunities, Komolafe had the good fortune to record with members of Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, a collective of similarly minded souls founded in 1961 that over the years hosted such names as Arthur Blythe, David Murray and Jimmy Woods. From the late '70s to the mid-'80s, Komolafe appeared on many of the key albums that appeared on the Nimbus West label, a label ostensibly started to promote recordings by Tapscott: the Creative Arts Ensemble’s One Step Out, Nate Morgan’s Journey to Nigritia and Tapscott’s own The Call. As impressive as his contributions to these amazing albums are, it’s Komolafe’s own solo effort, Hassan’s Walk, recorded in 1983, that sets him out as a true talent, albeit a criminally under-recorded one.
Hassan’s Walk is a confident, declarative statement of intent; musically, it’s an expression of a post-Coltrane Africa-American heritage set within the fallout from the black experience in Vietnam, alongside the arrival of the Regan era and the rise of the American evangelical right. Staying strong to Tapscott’s recurring themes of cultural unity, historical knowledge and emotional intelligence, Komolafe’s album is a synthesis of past traditions, as played out in the regular drumming circles in LA’s Leimert Park, as well as future hopes and aspirations for the next generation; a soundtrack to an open mind and body. It's fierce but fun; free yet focussed, and displays a finely tuned balance and luxuriant tonal range from a superb ensemble of musicians: Roberto Miranda on bass, Sunship Theus on drums, Eric Tillman on piano, Rikcy Kelly on vibes and Komolafe on flute and alto saxophone.
There are two covers on the album: a version of Wayne Shorter’s "See no Evil," considered by many to be the album’s centrepiece, powered along by Sunship’s effervescent percussion, and a lush reading of Monk’s "’Round Midnight." The title track, written by Komolafe, features, a strong solo from Tillman’s piano and ebullient vibes from Kelly and the traditional song, "Calvary," receives an impressive arrangement, building to a crescendo with Komolafe’s horn screaming for air before finding respite in Kelly’s shimmering vibes.
Hassan’s Walk is a jewel in the crown of Nimbus West, a crown already replete with gems, polished to perfection.