Chicago has been the birthplace of so much crucial music that it deserves to be treated with the same respect we give to New Orleans, as a wellspring of those diverse unique voices that could only be American.
I now realize that the ranks of people quintessential to this music includes (multi-instrumentalist, composer, actor, tap dancer, director, etc !!!) Idris Ackamoor. It is of course I who am catching up here, as Mr. Ackamoor is 67 years old and has been making music (often with his band the Pyramids) since the early 1970s. He comes from Chicago, but has lived for a number of years in San Francisco.
His latest recording “An Angel Fell” (on Strut Records) features a sextet with three lead instruments – his soulful tenor saxophone, a violin (Sandra Poindexter), and an electric guitar (David Molina) – along with some occasional chant-like singing, and instantly expands any musical genre you try to locate it within. The music contained in this set is probably most fairly categorized as jazz, and continues the soulful creative legacy of people like Pharoah Saunders, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Philip Cohran while also being firmly rooted within the melodic and rhythmic pulse of humanity and social justice. As you listen, you will probably find yourself hearing lots of echoes of music you already love, while at the same time finding it hard to think of other exactly similar compilations.
At the same time as reflecting deep roots and a respect for tradition, this record also pushes the bounds of what you might expect a senior citizen to be reaching for. It is thinking and challenging, but also often makes you want to move and dance.
If you like any of the recent work of Kamasi Washington, you could easily imagine this set as being created by someone who could be his musical uncle, on a single disc, and with a funky Motown bassline (“Warrior Dance”), soaring violin (“An Angel Fell” and “Soliloquy for Michael Brown”) and slashing lead guitar (“Message to My People”).
Idris Ackamoor is clearly not a new kid on any block, but he is someone hopefully who’s time has finally come. This record kicks ass!
I hope to one day soon get a chance to see them perform this music in person.