Saturday, 21 November 2020

Idris Ackamoor ☥ The Pyramids ‎– An Angels Fell (2018)

Style: Free Jazz, Afrobeat, Jazz-Funk, Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD,Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Strut

1.   Tinoge
2.   An Angel Fell
3.   Land Of Ra
4.   Papyrus
5.   Soliloquy For Michael Brown
6.   Message To People
7.   Warrior Dance
8.   Sunset

Drums – Johann Polzer
Congas,Percussion, Vocals – Bradie Speller
Double Bass – Skyler Stover
Electric Bass, Vocals – Skyler Stover
Guitar, Vocals – David Molina
Violin, Lead Vocals – Sandra Poindexter
Alto Saxophone, Lead Vocals – Idris Ackamoor

During a second listen to the title track on An Angel Fell, the latest release from Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids, I suddenly recall the climactic scene in Blade Runner where Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty delivers his famous, William Blake-inspired speech: “Fiery the angels fell / deep thunder rolled around their shores / burning with the fires of Orc.” Batty is a renegade android, an escapee from one of Earth’s off-world colonies, who continually interrogates what it means to be human and is all the while hunted by a character whose own human-ness is in doubt.

Fallen angels, or visitors from other planets, seem to occupy a similar role on this album: they observe human follies, warn against our impulses to conflict and environmental destruction, and offer the possibility of redemption. That title track veers between tight orchestration and 50s B-movie sound effects, the Pyramids’ sextet of extraordinarily talented jazz voyagers bridging the gap between earthy rhythms and extraterrestrial soundscapes.

This is not the first time that otherworldly visitors have graced planet Earth via what has come to be known as cosmic jazz. In the movie Space Is The Place (made in 1972 - the same year that Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids formed in Ohio), jazz visionary and Afrofuturist prophet Sun Ra lands his intergalactic Ra Ship in Oakland, California (which was home to the Pyramids during the mid-70s); having visited other planets where “the vibrations are different”, he expounds his theories of expanded black consciousness to the bemused young African-Americans he meets there.

This debt to Sun Ra’s legacy - both his music and his message - is explored fully on ‘Land Of Ra’, the captivating third track here, whose lyrics describe “a band of children from the land of Ra” who “travel space from star to star”. Like many of the album’s songs, it contains triumphant, almost euphoric passages and also delves into darker sonic realms. The track blends the heavily delayed guitar effects normally found in dub with its saxophone and violin-led melody, and it works perfectly. This playful borrowing from other genres is displayed across the album: opening track ‘Tinoge’ nods towards Afrobeat, ‘Papyrus’ glides into a kind of bossa nova kitsch.

The band started 46 years ago, disbanded for decades and then reformed, but their music has lost none of its potency or political relevance. The music that Ackamoor was making in the 1970s came out of intense social and racial tension, and that commitment to addressing the world’s ills through music remains. The arrival of the LP feels timely: Ackamoor stated that “loss of innocence and separation” were two themes guiding its development, as was a belief in the healing power of music. Humanity in 2018 could certainly use some healing, and it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the return of politically engaged jazz has come at a time of renewed global conflict.

‘Soliloquy for Michael Brown’ confronts the continued brutality of racial oppression in the United States, honouring the African-American teenager whose killing by Missouri police in 2014 sparked great civil unrest. It begins with an astonishing interweaving of Ackamoor’s sax and Sandra Poindexter’s violin: the two instruments summon deep grief and militant rage, then morph into a percussive groove that is transformative in its intensity. Ackamoor’s sax playing here is wounded and abrasive, as if depicting the deep scars of the legacy of racial violence.

Social injustice isn’t the only issue tackled by the LP, whose album art (by illustrator Lewis Heriz) depicts an angel sitting atop a rock as storms engulf the landscape in front of her. The funk-laced ‘Message To My People’ warns of ecological oblivion, the ominous roar of distorted guitars in the background. The track follows in the tradition of militant jazz and funk: music as sermon, lament and battle cry.

Despite the heavy subject matter, the album feels optimistic and imbued with a belief in the potential for humanity’s transformation. An Angel Fell ends with the shimmering, dreamlike ‘Sunset’, a celebratory and transcendent piece which seems to point towards a renewed respect and appreciation of nature as being part of our salvation. Ultimately, this is what the album promises: redemption and collective healing are within our grasp, if only we look outward and inward to be reminded of our true place in the cosmos.
Adam Quarshie / The QUIETUS

Nile Rodgers ‎– B-movie Matinee (1985)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warner Bros. Records

1.   Plan-9
2.   State Your Mind
3.   The Face In The Window
4.   Doll Squad
5.   Let's Go Out Tonight
6.   Groove Master
7.   Wavelength
8.   Stay Out Of The Light

Producer – Nile Rodgers, Tommy 'Rock' Jymi
Vocoder, Guitar, Cymbal – Tommy Jymi
Synthesizer – Rob Sabino
Bass, Guitar – Jimmy Bralower
Japanese Rap – Shizuko Orishige
Vocals, Backing Vocals – Alfa Anderson
Voice – Budd Tunick, Dan Nash, Hedy
Synthesizer, Bass, Backing Vocals – Nile Rodgers
Backing Vocals – Curtis King, David Spinner, Frank Simms, George Simms

Released in 1985, B-Movie Matinee proved a stellar departure from Nile Rodgers' initial solo outing. Leaving behind the more traditional trappings of his R&B-inflected debut, he instead looked to the synthesized future, driving his organic bass and guitars into what amounted to a concept album of sorts, fueled by memories of lazy Saturday B-movie afternoons. Bright, punchy pop punctuates this set. From the quirky sci-fi of "Plan-9" and the contemporary urban groove on "State Your Mind," which is one of the album's better tracks, Rodgers fills the space with eminently danceable, if somewhat same-y, songs using synthesizer tricks to thrill. "Let's Go out Tonight," meanwhile, proved the album's hot prospect, dipping into the Top 100, giving Rodgers his only solo chart hit. Rounding things out are the ballad "Wavelength" and Rodgers' immaculate instrumentation -- most notably the guitar and bass, which bound through the funky "Groove Master" with glee. Perhaps a little too light on substance, B-Movie Matinee still manages to please. Being Nile Rodgers can't be easy, as the mere mention of his name conjures such strong sonic images from his Chic canon, and it's hard to ignore those predispositions when listening to his solo material. But that's no detriment to the fine set he's unleashed here.
Amy Hanson / AllMusic

Everything But The Girl ‎– Original Album Series (2011)

Genre: Electronic, Hip Hop, Jazz, Rock, Pop
Format: Box Set / 5xCD
Label: Rhino Records 


01.   Each And Every One
02.   Bittersweet
03.   Tender Blue
04.   Another Bridge
05.   The Spice Of Life
06.   The Dustbowl
07.   Crabwalk
08.   Even So
09.   Frost And Fire
10.   Fascination
11.   IMust Confess
12.   Soft Touch

Alto Saxophone – Pete King
Double Bass – Chucho Merchan
Drums – Charles Hayward
Guitar – Simon Booth
Percussion – Joao Bosco De Oliveira
Tenor Saxophone – Nigel Nash
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Dick Pearce
Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Tracey Thorn
Guitar, Organ, Vocals, Piano, Horns Arranged By – Ben Watt
Producer – Robin Millar


01.   When All's Well
02.   Ugly Little Dreams
03.   Shoot Me Down
04.   Are You Trying To Be Funny?
05.   Sean
06.   Ballad Of The Times
07.   Anytown
08.   This Love (Not For Sale)
09.   Trouble And Strife
10.   Angel

Alto Saxophone – Peter King
Backing Vocals – Ben, June, Tracey
Banjo – Chris Thompson
Bass – Phil Moxham
Drums, Vocals – June Miles-Kingston
Electric Guitar – Neil Scott
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Dick Pearce
Pedal Steel Guitar – BJ Cole
Tenor Saxophone– Nigel Nash
Tin Whistle – Dave Golding
Vocals – Tracey Thorn
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Organ, Vocals – Ben Watt
Producer – Robin Millar


01.   Come On Home
02.   Don't Leave Me Behind
03.   A Country Mile
04.   Cross My Heart
05.   Don't Let The Teardrops Rust Your Shining Heart
06.   Careless
07.   Sugar Finney
08.   Come Hell Or High Water
09.   Fighting Talk
10.   Little Hitler

Lyrics By – Ben Watt, Tracey Thorn
Music By – Ben Watt, Tracey Thorn
Bass – Micky Harris
Conductor – Nick Ingman
Drums – Rob Peters
French Horn – Jim Handy, John Pigneguy
Piano, Organ – Cara Tivey
Saxophone – Jeff Daly, Nigel Nash, Peter King, Phil Todd, Ray Swinfield
Trombone – Alan Hutt, Andy Fawbert, Chris Pyne, Peter Thoms
Cello – Chris Green, Clive Anstee, Helen Liebmann, Paul Kegg
Trumpet – Alan Downey, Derek Watkins, Luke Tunney, Martin Dover, Stuart Brooks
Percussion – Frank Ricotti, Joao Bosco De Oliveira, Martin Ditcham, Steve Henderson
Viola – Cathy Stevens, David Emmanuel, George Robertson, Ken Essex
Backing Vocals – Bob Saker, Clare Torry, Gary Taylor, Lance Ellington, Linda Allen, Tessa Niles, Tony Burrows, Victy Silva
Violin – Basil Smart, Bill Benham, David Woodcock, Gavyn Wright, Jimmy Archer, John Wilson, Levine Andrade, Peter Oxer, Richard Studt, Roger Garland, Tim Good, Wilf Gibson
Vocals – Tracey Thorn
Producer, Guitar, Arranged By – Ben Watt


01.   I Don't Want To Talk About It
02.   Love Is Here Where I live
03.   These Early Days
04.   I Always Was Your Girl
05.   Oxford Street
06.   The Night I Heard Caruso Sing
07.   Goodbye Sunday
08.   Shadow On A Harvest Moon
09.   Blue Moon Rose
10.   Tears All Over Town
11.   Lonesome For A Place I know
12.   Apron Strings

Alto Saxophone – Peter King
Bass Guitar – Steve Pierce
Piano, Synthesizer – Damon Butcher
Producer – Ben Watt


01.   Driving
02.   Get Back Together
03.   Meet Me In The Morning
04.   Me And Bobby D
05.   The Language Of Life
06.   Take Me
07.   Imagining America
08.   Letting Love Go
09.   My Baby Don't Love Me
10.   The Road

Alto Saxophone – Marc Russo
Vocals Arranged By– Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt
Tenor Saxophone– Larry Williams
Trumpet, Flugelhorn– Jerry Hey
Vocals, Backing Vocals – Ben Watt, Tracey Thorn
Producer – Tommy Lipuma