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2 Jan 2017

The Pyramids"Lalibela"1973 US Private Afro Jazz, Free Jazz,Jazz Avant Garde,Cosmic Jazz.





















The Pyramids  "Lalibela" 1973 US  Private Afro Jazz, Free Jazz,Jazz Avant Garde,Cosmic Jazz.
full
Early '70s cosmic jazz masterpiece. RIYL Sun-Ra, Art Ensemble Of Chicago** "Lalibela (1973) was the first album recorded by The Pyramids following their landmark journey throughout Africa as students from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The album is one of the first cutting-edge “concept” albums as each side of the LP seamlessly flows from one composition to the next in the vein of a suite painting a musical portrait of the African adventure experienced by founding members Idris Ackamoor, Margaux Simmons, and Kimathi Asante. Lalibela, Ethiopia was the inspiration for the album. A journey to experience the 12th century rock churches of Lalibela by Margaux and Idris closed out their nine-month African odyssey. The personnel for the recording was augmented by new members percussionist Bradie Speller (Hekaptah), drummer Marcel Lytle, and soprano saxophonist Tony Owens (Masai). The album has plenty percussion driven rhythms, beautiful alto sax and flute melodies, soaring and “out” improvisations, ritualistic chants, meditative tone pieces, high energy modal jams, and exotic African instruments collected during the African trip.".... 

Recording an album was a way of The Pyramids’ music reaching a much wider audience. So they headed to Schumacher’s Studios and began to record the three tracks that became Lalibela. The two parts of Lalibela had been written by Idris Ackamoor and his new wife Margo Simmons. The other alumni of Antioch College, Kwame Kimathi Asante wrote Indigo. These three tracks were recorded by the six members of The Pyramids.

At Schumacher’s Studios band leader and multi-instrumentalist Idris Ackamoor was joined by flautist Margo Ackamoor and bassist Kwame Kimathi Asante. He was also a multi-instrumentalist, who could play a myriad of percussion instruments. Along with drummer and percussionist Marcel Lytle; percussionist Hekartah; and Masa who switched between soprano saxophone, flute and percusion the six members of The Pyramids recorded the three tracks that became Lalibela.

When Lalibela was mixed at Schumacher’s Studios, The Pyramids decided to release the album privately. So in 1973, Lalibela was released on the group’s own label Pyramid Records. However, just like so many small labels, Pyramid Records lacked the budget to promote Lalibela. As a result, Lalibela was an underground album that passed the majority of record buyers by. That was a great shame, as they missed out on what was a groundbreaking fusion of avant-garde, free jazz, free funk, improv and soul. For The Pyramids, this must have been disappointing. Despite this, The Pyramids continued to tour, and in 1974, recorded their sophomore album King Of Kings........by Derek Anderson....

The Pyramids, first consisting of saxophonist Idris Ackamoor, flautist Margo Simmons and bassist Kimathi Asante, were founded in 1971 at Ohio’s Antioch College. Idris Ackamoor had already played with Albert Ayler’s alto player Charles Tyler in LA and Clifford King in Chicago. He just had his own spiritual free jazz band (in a Pharoah Sanders & Strata East-ish style) called The Collective. The title of their first album referred to a place in Ethiopia with the famous Christian-Ethiopian church built into rock. Margo Simons was soon becoming Idris wife. They really dug into the afro-spirit of music, made a sort of now-music, of instant improvisation with some recognisable patterns of drives, by rhythm or bass or sometimes group vocals and with free improvisations by flute or sax. The group had some influence from Sun Ra, but Idris also mentions John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Charles Tyler, Clifford King (his teacher), the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and African Music, as well as Eric Dolphy. For me the music sounds like a translation of Afro-centred music into the format of jazz, as if giving the African people a new free spirit with respect to certain traditions or local talent. (The band also travelled to Ghana and Kenya for a while). In African tradition, to a degree there is no amateur music, communal spirit succeeds to keep the energy strong and musicality complex enough. Here, the urban side of that feeling still sounds a little bit more loose and less complex, still a free bird is there. Perhaps the band feels this as coming from the same spirit, thus it is spiritual in some other sense of experience.

Very much like a jam, rhythms are drums and loose percussion and shakers. A groovy mood percussion gets also harmonies of flute with sax. A melodic improvisation changes direction. A repetitive afro-melody receives a sax improvised on top. Afro-feelings are mixed with tendencies to jazz standard style, until the Hagstrom bass takes over loosely before the energy falls apart. The track is faded out on the end of the first side as if there was no real planning of an ending. Then the tracks calm down and speed up a few more times. Voices push the energy up again with jeejee's and an ultimate sax burst outs its energy a bit more weird. This is all less organised compared to Pharoah Sanders, more loose and jam-like, the Afro-centered source in a way is the same one, and tends to go back to those people (in Africa) as well..... .....

Lalibela (1973) was the first album recorded by The Pyramids following their landmark journey throughout Africa as students from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The album is one of the first cutting-edge “concept” albums as each side of the LP seamlessly flows from one composition to the next in the vein of a suite painting a musical portrait of the African adventure experienced by founding members Idris Ackamoor, Margaux Simmons, and Kimathi Asante. Lalibela, Ethiopia was the inspiration for the album. A journey to experience the 12th century rock churches of Lalibela by Margaux and Idris closed out their nine-month African odyssey. The personnel for the recording was augmented by new members percussionist Bradie Speller (Hekaptah), drummer Marcel Lytle, and soprano saxophonist Tony Owens (Masai). The album has plenty percussion driven rhythms, beautiful alto sax and flute melodies, soaring and “out” improvisations, ritualistic chants, meditative tone pieces, high energy modal jams, and exotic African instruments collected during the African trip. .........

The Pyramid's First Album. "Lalibela" is an extended polyrhythmic spiritual-jazz jam, heavily steeped in righteous mid-70s Afrocentrism and ensemble collaboration. A 28 minute experimental acoustic dynamo that builds on a driving organic groove for a good 16 minutes before engaging into freakout mode- a burst of ecstatic "freeness" that never fails (nor is failed by) the groups' apparent devotion to tempo. Great stuff. Never too skronky. Led by saxophonist/composer Idris Ackamoor. More Roland Kirk + Moondog than Anthony Braxton, et al. ...

IDRIS ACKAMOOR is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, actor, tap dancer, producer, administrator, and director. He is the Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the multi-disciplinary San Francisco performance company Cultural Odyssey. Idris is also the Artistic Director of the legendary world music/jazz ensemble THE PYRAMIDS. Mr. Ackamoor has been honored with TWO Lifetime Achievement Awards for his extraordinary musical and theatrical contributions. The most recent was presented in January 2012 by the renowned BBC radio personality Gilles Peterson at the Worldwide Awards Show in London. In 2003 San Francisco‘s historic magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, presented Idris with his first. During December 2013 Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids conducted their 7th tour of Europe mesmerizing audiences at various music hot spots in Germany, Denmark, The Czech Republic, Sweden, United Kingdom and Switzerland. One of the highlights of the tour was the band’s performance at the worldâ€s leading underground music show The Boiler Roomin London where the presenter remarked, One of the most enthralling performances weâ€ve ever seen! Idris has performed and collaborated with tenor Saxophonists Chico Freeman and John Tchicai, the late alto saxophonist Charles Tyler, drummer Famoudou Don Moye of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, The Cecil Taylor Creative Orchestra, choreographer/dancer Bill T. Jones, writer Ntozake Shange and Pearl Cleage, his longtime partner actress Rhodessa Jones, and many others. Idris was a protege of Chicago legendary master clarinetist Clifford King who had played with Jelly Roll Morton and Freddie Keppard in the 1920s. Idris received his B.A. in Music from Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio where one of his most influential teachers was the influential pianist Cecil Taylor. Idris has also studied tap dance with legendary hoofers Al Robinson, Steve Condos, and Eddie Brown. Mr. Ackamoor is one of the first musicians of his generation to have traveled, lived and studied in Africa in 1972 – 73. During his stay in Africa he performed with the King’s Prayer Drummers of Tamale, Ghana as well as lived in Kenya where he studied the music of the Kikuyu and Masai. In 2013 Mr. Ackamoor received a James Irvine Foundation Exploring Engagement Fund Award to conduct concerts, music workshops, and rehearsals to build the Music is the Healing Force Community Orchestracomposed of low-income, African American, and nonprofessional musicians culminating in concert presentations in nontraditional arts venues in San Francisco. The U.S. Department of State, Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau selected Idris twice as an Arts Envoy. In his role as an arts ambassador he journeyed to Johannesburg, South Africa conducting residency activities inside the Naturena Women’s Prison with his partner Rhodessa Jones. In 2007 Idris conducted his first U.S. Department of State Speakers Tour of Russia where he conducted performances and workshops throughout the country. Idris has rightfully been in the spotlight of late thanks to the renewed interest in his 1970s legendary band, THE PYRAMIDS which he re – united in 2010. In the last three years a stunning 12 albums have been released of Mr. Ackamoor’s music, including the first Pyramids’ album in over 35 years entitled Otherworldly. In addition, a 3 CD box set was released (of the bands 70s recordings) entitled The Pyramids 1972 – 1976 – They Play to Make Music Fire! As well, the reissue on vinyl of the same 70s recordings entitled Lalibela (1973), King of Kings (1974), and Birth Speed Merging (1976). All of the above were released simultaneously on Disko B Records of Munich, Germany. In 2004 Idris released his third CD entitled, Homage to Cuba. In 1999 Idris released his second jazz CD entitled, Centurian and in 1998 he recorded and released his first CD entitled Portrait. Idris has recently received an Individual Artists Award from the San Francisco Cultural Equity Program to compose for the next PYRAMIDS’album.

Spiritual Afro-jazz-influenced ensemble the Pyramids formed in 1971 while the members were attending Antioch College in Ohio. Originally featuring saxophonist Idris Ackamoor, flutist Margo Simmons, and bassist Kimathi Asante, the group eventually added several members, including various percussionists and, at one point, two bassists. Inspired by such artists as Sun Ra and pianist Cecil Taylor, the latter of whom taught at Antioch during the '70s, the Pyramids mixed African rhythms, free jazz, and even a touch of psychedelic soul. The group toured extensively, relocated to San Francisco, and released three albums including 1973's Lalibela, 1974's King of Kings, and 1976's Birth, Speed, Merging before disbanded in 1977. In 2010, the Pyramids reunited for a tour in support of their complete catalog's reissue campaign, and the group recorded an album of all-new material at Faust's studio in Germany during the summer of 2011. Otherworldly, the Pyramids' first new album in several decades, arrived the following year.

Lalibela was the first album recorded by The Pyramids following their landmark journey throughout Africa as students from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The album is one of the first cutting-edge "concept" albums as each side of the LP seamlessly flows from one composition to the next in the vein of a suite painting a musical portrait of the African adventure experienced by founding members Idris Ackamoor, Margaux Simmons, and Kimathi Asante. Lalibela, Ethiopia was the inspiration for the album. A journey to experience the 12th century rock churches of Lalibela by Margaux and Idris closed out their nine-month African odyssey. The personnel for the recording was augmented by new members percussionist Bradie Speller (Hekaptah), drummer Marcel Lytle, and soprano saxophonist Tony Owens (Masai). The album has plenty percussion driven rhythms, beautiful alto sax and flute melodies, soaring out-there improvisations, ritualistic chants, meditative tone pieces, high energy modal jams, and exotic African instruments collected during the African trip. ....

The Pyramids were a very interesting forward thinking jazz collective that unfortunately flew considerably under the radar during their original tenure in the 1970s. All three of their LPs from that decade have just been reissued by the Disko B label, and the best place to start is right at the beginning, with their still smoking 1972 debut, Lalibela.

The idea that jazz died in the ‘70s, a notion that’s largely caught up with the commercial motivations of fusion, is a faulty one that has thankfully been almost entirely laid to rest. The reality is that there were plenty of very good to downright exceptional jazz records issued during the period, particularly from bands that were seeking inspiration from the free jazz movement of the previous decade. It’s just that many of those records weren’t all that easy to find, partly due to the poor distribution that came in the wake of many major labels essentially electing to close their doors to new jazz in favor of more commercial pop prospects.

But it’s not true that all of the majors shunned serious jazz during the ‘70s. Both Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman had fruitful runs with Columbia, Keith Jarrett entered into a relationship with Impulse (then distributed by MCA) for a series of albums with arguably the greatest band he ever led, The Art Ensemble of Chicago issued a pair of classics for Atlantic, and the great saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton had a series of amazing LPs released by Arista.

However, the reality is that most of the majors either seriously scaled back or completely ceased their jazz operation during the decade. Great jazz was indeed still happening, but it was increasingly waxed up for consumption by indie labels (some possessing business motives that weren’t exactly admirable) and fledgling artist-run imprints.


Those independent companies were often based in Europe; one of the most historically important, the BYG/Actuel label, released around fifty free jazz documents, many recorded live and quite a few absolutely crucial to a full understanding of the music’s developments post-Coltrane, but due to their status as imports they were destined to be rare as hen’s teeth in the country where jazz was born.

Artist-run labels had an even harder time getting noticed. Without the muscle that comes with money, many self-issued records of very limited commercial potential suffered a fate similar to a tree falling in a deserted forest. Sure, The New Music Distribution Service, founded in 1972 by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler, helped matters somewhat, but it made the biggest difference for NYC-based strugglers and for larger labels like ECM.

The fate for The Black Artist Group, a legendary collective similar in intent to The Art Ensemble of Chicago but located in St. Louis MI, was that their sole album In Paris, Aries 1973, recorded in France on a label named after the group and one of the finest free jazz documents of the ‘70s, went unheard by nearly everyone until digital rips started circulating around the internet in the middle of last decade. In 2011 it received a 500 copy reissue, but sadly the music of this vital outfit remains obscure to far too many.

When I think of The Black Artist Group I often think of The Pyramids, a spiritual jazz collective that flourished creatively in the midsection of ‘70s to little commercial fanfare in part due to the outfit hailing from the curious locale of Yellow Spring, OH. My personal discovery of The Pyramids came via an impulse buy of their 1976 LP Birth/Speed/Merging, finding it in the new arrivals section of my local record shack nestled between copies of Don Cherry’s 1969 album Eternal Rhythm and Cecil Taylor’s 1967 masterpiece for Blue Note Conquistador!

At that point I’d not heard a peep about The Pyramids, but the cover was enticing and the price was right, so I took a chance. And a smart buy it turned out to be. The Pyramids were formed in 1971 at Antioch College in Yellow Spring by saxophonist Idris Ackamoor, flautist Margaux Simmons (soon to be Ackamoor’s wife), and bassist Kimathi Asante. In a situation similar to many of the jazz heavyweights of the period, the group bailed on the climes of the USA for the more fertile ground of Europe and Africa, with The Pyramids visiting the rock churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia and additionally living for a time in both Ghana and Kenya.

This was a period of often wild transition for jazz. The artists that partook of these spiritual excursions largely turned their backs on the jazz-club business model that was intertwined with the deluge of classic recording that had defined the previous two decades of the jazz narrative. Part of the reason these musicians abandoned this mode of operation was simply due to the bottom falling out, and along the way it became clear to this younger generation that the businessmen in charge didn’t exactly hold the artists best interests as a high priority.

And it wasn’t really their scene anyway; amongst their most direct influences was the still contentious music of Coleman, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and the scores of subsequent improvisers that recorded in response to the clarion call of the New Thing. This younger generation was questing, and indicative of this change in values was the disappearance of the sharp attire that was once de rigueur for the working jazz musician. In its place came a garb representative of an increased black consciousness.

If the record labels and trad-minded jazz listeners were largely disinterested in this turn of events, that didn’t mean a smaller audience wasn’t hungry for the nourishment provided by these fresh sounds. The Pyramids released three records in their original phase; ‘72’s Lalibela, ‘74’s King of Kings and ‘76’s Birth/Speed/Merging, all on their own Pyramid Records.

Those albums straddle a lot of interesting territory. For starters, there is a debt to the works of the great saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders, records largely released on the Impulse label that explored the spiritual terrain that was set in motion by Coltrane on his masterful ‘60s albums A Love Supreme and Om, the latter indeed featuring Sanders as a member of the band. But Sanders also issued the album Izipho Zam on the Strata East imprint, a once obscure but now renowned company that specialized in a genre known as “spiritual jazz,” a movement that also figures into the sensibility expressed by The Pyramids.

Furthermore, the group’s reliance upon flute and percussion lent the music a mild similarity to what The Art Ensemble was doing during the same period. And The Pyramids general disinterest in going full-tilt bonkers with the abstraction that flew from the spiraling discs of many free jazz groups from the era finds them rubbing shoulders with the gentler avant-garde musings that sprang from the ‘70s loft jazz scene (check out the Wildflowers LPs on Douglas for bountiful evidence of that rich movement).

But The Pyramids were far more than just an amalgamation of unique but sympathetic currents of serious ‘70s jazz flow. They were a fully formed unit that was deserving of far more attention in their first phase, and the Disko B label has saw fit to reissue all three of the above albums in 180-gm pressings.

The whole batch is a total treat for ears attuned to this sort of advanced improvisational expression, and anybody curious should begin with Lalibela. It finds the three founders augmented by percussionist Bradie Speller (Hekaptah), drummer Marcel Lytle, and soprano saxophonist Tony Owens (Masai) for two sidelong cuts that that tangle with all sorts of elevated strategies.

As previously stated, the concept of rhythm was very much on The Pyramids minds across the span of these LPs, and their approach gives Lalibela an air of accessibility that should help those that have been left in a lurch by some of the more uncompromising examples of free jazz firepower.

That doesn’t mean that The Pyramids are timid in their approach; no, the group has moments that scorch with a searching temperament that was very much of its era. The “Rock Churches” segment of the title cut is especially loaded with some prime lung fury courtesy of Ackamoor.

It’s just that those rhythmic attitudes can serve as an assist to those requiring some sort of anchor in aid of not losing their bearings while the music unwinds. And along the way Lalibela holds other elements of interest. One very rewarding aspect is getting to hear another record from the belly of the ‘70s free jazz beast that lacks the “professional” recording atmosphere that was a byproduct of the high dollar studios operated by the major labels.

Many of the indie free jazz releases of the era share this lack of sheen, and while finicky Rudy Van Gelder fans might balk at what they consider to be a subpar sonic palate, expectations such as these ultimately miss the point. In the end this sort of underground jazz was as DIY as the ultra-obscure post-punk of the late-‘70s/early-‘80s, and the stripped-down, glossless production values displayed here are true to the inspiration that got these albums recorded in the first place. And it’s not like an ear can’t adequately soak up all the instruments as they get loose and inspired and exquisitely out.

There’s a lot of Margaux Simmons’ flute on display during Lalibela, and it’s a credit to her and the whole band that his listener, a general non-fan of the flute (a preference stated in the nicest way possible) is largely unbothered by the proliferation of said woodwind here. She completely sidesteps the admirable fluting precedent of Eric Dolphy and Roland Kirk (easily the two best jazz flautists) and jumps full force into the spiky, non-pretty zone exemplified by The Art Ensemble’s Roscoe Mitchell (perhaps the third best jazz flautist).

Of all three albums by The Pyramids, I consider Lalibela to be the best. But they are all close enough in quality that I’ll give no quibble to advocates of King of Kings and Birth/Speed/Merging. I will say that as much as I enjoy all three, they do miss the status of true masterpieces, in Lalibela’s case by the slimmest of margins. Extensive bouts of more aggressively bent horn playing would’ve catapulted these records into the stratosphere, and I shudder with pleasure over the hypothetical fireworks that would’ve resulted from a team up with contemporaneous Fire Music sax titans like Rev. Frank Wright or Noah Howard.

But regarding The Pyramids, that’s what might’ve been. Lalibela is the first of what actually is, and for a true understanding of the ‘70s jazz scene they are basically essential....BY JOSEPH NEFF ................

Tracklist
01 Lalibela (Lalibela Opus Part 1) 05 :58
02 Sheba's Dance (Lalibela Opus Part 2) 04 :24
03 High Priestess (Lalibela Opus Part 3) 02 :39
04 Rock Churches (Lalibela Opus Part 4) 09 :19
05 Dialogue of the Spirits (Lalibela Opus Part 5) 02 :25
06 Mesenko Nights (Lalibela Opus Part 6) 02 :56
07 Indigo (Indigo Suite Part 1) 08 :12
08 YA A YA A YA A YA A (Anubis Awakens) (Indigo Suite Part 2) 06 :14
09 Sunset at Giza (Indigo Suite Part 3) 02 :35

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