Reunited midwestern jazz band Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids take on funkier flavors and shares healing messages on An Angel Fell | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Reunited midwestern jazz band Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids take on funkier flavors and shares healing messages on An Angel Fell

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More people of consequence have passed through Yellow Springs, Ohio, than you might imagine. The home of liberal-leaning Antioch College, the town hosted Coretta Scott King as a student in the 40s; punk vocalist Mia Zapata founded the Gits there in 1986; and comedian Dave Chappelle currently calls the place home. In 1972, the Pyramids, a jazz band made up of Antioch students and led by Chicago-born saxophonist Idris Ackamoor, began performing while studying abroad in Europe, Ghana, and Kenya. Following their return to Yellow Springs, the troupe cut a pair of albums before decamping to San Francisco. Birth/Speed/Merging, from 1976, serves as a culmination of the group’s work during that period, and on that sought-after slab, Ackamoor takes an approach not unlike that of Pharoah Sanders, throwing off knotty melodies, free passages, and finding support in a coterie of percussionists. The record, which serves as a culmination of the group’s work during that period, also marks the Pyramids’ end until 2011, when the saxophonist resurrected the troupe and set out on a run of three recordings. The group’s most recent release, this year’s An Angel Fell (Strut Records), amps up their funk influences and extends the bandleader’s ties to Chicago with unabashed Sun Ra references: “Land of Ra,” for example, features some chants about exploring, traveling through space, and looking for ways to heal the planet. “Soliloquy for Michael Brown” takes a solemn tone throughout its nine minutes as Ackamoor, violinist Sandra Poindexter, and guitarist David Molina mourn the young black man whose death in Ferguson, Missouri, ignited protests against police violence. Live, the Pyramids might come off like a funkier version of the Arkestra, a sonic persona they explore throughout the album—poignantly so on “Message to My People.” Ackamoor’s desire to investigate vast modes of expression (he coruns the San Francisco music and performance arts organization Cultural Odyssey with performer and educator Rhodessa Jones) might have taken him away from Chicago, but his music clearly remains rooted here.   v

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