Time travelers - Page 2

Then is now for four different Bay Area musical trail-blazers

Now, Birth Speed Merging and two earlier Pyramids albums — 1973's Lalibela and 1974's King of Kings — are alive again on vinyl, thanks in part to Dawson Prater's Ikef label.

"I've lost a lot of things in my life, but for all these years, I've managed to hold on to all of the masters of the Pyramids," says Ackamoor, who is busier than ever today due to Cultural Odyssey, his multi-faceted collaboration with Rhodessa Jones. (Before a new set of Bay Area performances next year, a trip to Russia is on the horizon.) Ackamoor was right to hold on to his barely-tapped treasure trove of Pyramids material, because the group's music is built to last. Birth Speed Merging scorches ears with proto-noise. Accompanied by Ted Joans' written ideas about Afro-Surrealism, King of Kings astounds (the bass runs of "Nsorama") and hypnotizes ("Queen of the Spirits"), in turn.

Such sounds will be a revelation to young listeners, even — or perhaps especially — those whose sensibilities have been shaped by the journeying spirit of the late Alice Coltrane. To paraphrase a credo, the Pyramids played music to make fire and make souls burst out from bodies. "They've tried to snuff out that avant-garde energy," Ackamoor notes, when discussing then and now. "This music wasn't meant to sell drinks. When I listen to it, it even inspires me. I listen to how I sounded, and the freedom with which I played when I was so young — 19, 20, 21. The intensity is so refreshing. I didn't realize I could play so long." (Huston)

SAN FRANCISCO EXPRESS In the 1970s, San Francisco churned out quality music like nobody's business. But many of those recordings — despite their innovation or solidity — never saw the light of the day. And so today preservationists abound, seeking to revive the lost treasures discarded in the wake of this music renaissance. Recently, the one and only effort of jazz-funk outfit San Francisco Express, Getting It Together (Reynolds/ Family Groove, 1979), hit the shelves for a new generation. The album embodies the lush cosmic spirit of free form jazz grounded seamlessly in deep pocket funk.

Little is known about Getting It Together. Daniel Borine, Family Groove label owner and source of the reissue, says that the set was recorded circa 1975 at Dr. Patrick Gleeson's infamous Different Fur studios in SF's Mission District. Gleeson, who played Moog synthesizer for the arrangement, doesn't remember the album by name. But oddly enough, Getting It Together recalls Gleeson's monumental direction for Herbie Hancock on the visionary, electrified jazz of Crossings (Warner, 1971) and Sextant (Sony, 1972) as well as Charles Earland's epic odyssey, Leaving This Planet (Prestige, 1973). Even though Getting It Together was recorded just after these groundbreaking works, the small independent label Reynolds postponed its release until '79, possibly due to in-house quarrels. The original pressing provided no substantive information on the recording. And, seemingly outdated amid the burgeoning new sounds of modern soul and disco, it quickly faded into dusty record bins across the country.

Despite Getting It Together's unfortunate reception, few jazz-funk records of the mid-1970s sound as cohesive. The sonic landscape shifts effortlessly between conventional melodies and spacey grooves without losing a consistent magnetism. Virtuoso trumpeter Woody Shaw carries the powerhouse horn section, bursting with psychedelic warmth over heavy hitting drum breaks courtesy of Afro-inspired drummer E.W. Wainwright. Gleeson's keys evoke a sensual intelligence and informed taste for adventure. A remarkable synthesis of the lively experimental jazz era, Getting It Together still feels as inspired and fresh as ever.

Also in this section

  • Good things, small packages

    33 1/3, the ultimate record collector's novella series, turns 10

  • No thanks, Bono

    Three new albums that should magically appear on your iPod in place of Songs of Innocence

  • A show a day: Your fall music calendar

    FALL ARTS 2014 Like a daily multivitamin, your recommended dose of live shows through November