This 1984 trio date offers a rare early chance to hear the Los Angeles-based pianist playing with New York City peers. Dissent or Descent offers food for thought on where Tapscott falls in the jazz style spectrum by teaming him with Ben Riley, a drummer linked to Thelonious Monk, and AACM-associated bassist Fred Hopkins. "As a Child" opens with nice melodic touches -- the piano may be mixed a little low but it's not a crucial drawback since Tapscott is forceful enough and the rhythm section sensitive enough to overcome it. The prominent role Tapscott's left hand plays in his melodic conception makes Randy Weston comparisons come to life both here and on "Sandy and Niles." "To the Great House" is a high spot, insistently pushing and jabbing, with Hopkins switching from anchor to doubling the melody to playing countermelodies during the theme. Tapscott doesn't strew notes around, his solo is built off melodic impulses over gorgeous chordal ripples, unfolding organically with sensitive cymbal support from Riley, who reserves drums for his solos. Clifford Jordan's "Spell Bound" finds Tapscott romping around the buoyant tempo and Hopkins at his best ranging through the middle. "Ballad for Samuel" pays homage to Tapscott's mentor Samuel L. Browne, the famous music teacher at Los Angeles' Jefferson High in the '30s and '40s. Two extra solo pieces boast a much crisper piano sound and a more expansive Tapscott. "Ruby, My Dear" starts gorgeously with rolling chords smoothing out the Monk quirks before Tapscott elaborates to show why he may rank as one of the most intrinsically fascinating solo pianists ever. The original "Chico's Back in Town" is another prime example because you never know where he's going -- the music unfolds as it happens (exactly as it should), with a fragmented start leading to pounding flourishes, forceful pedal work and a racehorse finale. Actually, Tapscott's playing with the trio is fairly muted, with more emphasis put on his formidable melodic gifts than any virtuoso turns. Dissent or Descent may not be the best music any of these musicians created but it's a good example of solid, tasteful professionalism.
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AllMusic Review by Don Snowden