Idris Ackamoor ☥ The Pyramids ‘An Angel Fell’ 2LP/CD (Strut) 4/5

For those unaware, The Pyramids were founded back in 1972 in Ohio when Afro-centrism as a concept was at its zenith. The search for African roots and making musical connections is very much the raison d’être of Idris Ackamoor ☥ the Pyramids. Taught in part by the late exponent of avant-garde jazz piano, Cecil Taylor, the band actually formed in Paris and three independent releases surfaced between 1973 and 1976, with live performances becoming their trademark. Subsequently, the band moved to San Francisco and disbanded there in 1977. A thirty-five year gap then ensued before 2012 when the group reunited in response to an increasing demand for their vinyl output. In 2016 the German label Disko 3 released a new album by the band, in a more free form idiom, and then they signed to Strut where the critically acclaimed, ‘We All Be Africans’, came out in 2016.

The new album will once again appeal to a wider audience beyond the traditional confines of jazz and devotees of dub reggae in particular will find much in common in the music contained within. Overarching the work of the Pyramids is a lifelong attraction to both the music and philosophy of Sun Ra, and thus the homage paid to him on ‘Land of Ra’ should come as little surprise. It is a bubbling percussive number with dub effect on congas and drums, and collective vocal chants. One of this writer’s favourite numbers is the gentle paced ‘Papyrus’, which features a lovely melodic bass line and tenor saxophone and guitar in tandem, a feature throughout the album as a whole. On ‘Tinoge’, the bass line is straight out of Marvin’s ‘Inner City Blues’, while an impassioned tenor solo is accompanied by violin and the delicate guitar work of David Molina. If any other source of inspiration might be present for the band, then it would surely be the saxophone and socio-political outlook of Archie Shepp, and the leader himself has clearly been influenced in both respects by Shepp. Overall, the use of dub effects works beautifully within the context of politically aware left-field jazz and the biggest complement that one can pay Idris Ackamoor ☥ the Pyramids is that Sun Ra himself would surely have approved this band and their Afro-centric direction. A prime contender for the year’s best album front cover and very 1970’s in outlook.

Tim Stenhouse