Idris Ackamoor Jazz

“An Angel Fell” by Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids

One of the pleasures of owning a record shop is getting a visit from musicians. Being Jazz heads, it’s extra special to get a visit from a talent like Idris Ackamoor. Tenor man and founding member of The Pyramids. Even more special when the legend comes bearing a bag of back stock from his hefty catalogue.

The Pyramids formed in Ohio in the early 70s under the tutelage of Cecil Taylor. After touring Africa and expanding their sound, the group settled in San Francisco. Around this time, they released three LPs on their own private label, Pyramid Records. Lalibela, King of Kings, and Birth/Speed/Merging. Must haves for anyone into Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry, and the like. Afrocentric, contemplative, avant-garde Jazz.

Jazz The Pyramids
Some of the many goodies Idris Ackamoor dropped off in the shop.

The Pyramids split in 1977 and for the next 30 years Idris spearheaded another Jazz outfit called the Cultural Odyssey but he reformed the Pyramids in 2010. Three albums soon followed: Otherworldly, We Be All Africans, and An Angel Fell. The last two released by the label Strut in the U.K. Here The Pyramids find themselves among the prestigious company of artists like the Ethiopian Jazz man Mulatu Astatke and Lloyd Miller (who merged traditional Middle Eastern instruments with American Jazz).

While we were familiar with The Pyramids’ early LPs (having pulled original copies from storage units or garages), the Strut releases had, unfortunately, slipped under our noses. Dropping the needle on An Angel Fell, we were blown away. It is an exceptional record. And totally in line with the contemporary Jazz sound we enjoy: like Kamasi Washington or Greg Foat. Well-recorded and funky with spiritual messages that concern the state of our planet. Hear it for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcEj4A_3H2A.

Greg Foat 2019

The Latest LP From U.K. Jazzman Greg Foat

We first heard about the pianist Greg Foat while at a friend’s listening party a few years back. We thought he was playing a cut from Miles’ “Elevator to the Gallows” but we were pleasantly surprised when he corrected us. It was a new jazz record by a new artist from the U.K. Naturally, we delved into researching more about Foat and his work and soon discovered we were late to the game. Foat had already established a hearty catalogue of jazz in all its forms – the first, Dark Is the Sun.

The first print was long gone, fetching high sums on the secondary market, but had gone through a few represses. Timmion Records in Finland remastered and cut these second runs in Finland. A label known mostly for Soul records but also for the quality fidelity of their vinyl. Here Foat beautifully blends the harpsichord with floating electronic sounds. His subsequent release, Girl and Robot with Flowers, is that reminiscent of Miles’ Gallows, although the b-side drifts into a more electronic mix of jazz and hip-hip similar to the sounds on Dark.

Between his early work of 2011/12 and the two albums he put out this past year, Foat scored a number of albums. These were collaborations with other artists like Warren Hampshire and lean more in the direction of ambient, library, and classical. His 2019 LPs, The Mage and The Dreaming Jewels, are jazz all the way and both equally excellent. The first is Foat’s venture into a more spiritual sound. He captures the slow builds and vocal harmonies found on 70’s labels like Strata East or Tribe. The second, the release we’re featuring here, is straight raw jazz-funk in its most hard hitting form.

Foat plays the fender rhodes on the entire record. It also features the incredible drumming of Malcolm Catto. If you don’t know his work, it’s worth checking out as well. Every track on this album is fire. Great for listening at home or playing out. A must for those who love all those 70s jazz-funk records the hiphop producers sampled back-in-the-day. Give the album a fill listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nuc0Tvnb8R0&list=OLAK5uy_l4iVqU1xM-nqlED4jHKRuFkAdXMLeB3og First batch sold out before hitting the bins. Don’t let the second pass you by!

Pop Up Art Show San Francisco

“Enjoy Imaginary Music” by Brazilian Artist Fábio Benê

We’re excited to host our first art show at the shop and Fabio’s work could not be more fitting! Come join us Saturday December 14th from 6-10pm! A handful of San Francisco’s top DJs will be spinning all night!

Fábio paints over real album covers, creating his own world of imaginary musicians and titles. Each cover features a brief description of these fictional artists and their work. The audience is invited to imagine new songs based on this new reality Fabio creates. The covers, the portrayed musicians, and the descriptions.

Playfully riffing on conventional cover art, Fabio presents the collection as part of a spoof record label called Enjoy Imaginary Music. EIM becomes the first label to release un-recordable and un-streamable music, transforming the audience’s mind into a record player.

A little on Benê himself. He lives in San Francisco but hails originally from São Paulo, Brazil. His work draws heavily from street culture, music, and everyday observations. Benê explores a range of expressions from marginalized mediums to multimedia experiments, testing a different process for each series. With strong character-based work, Fabio creates images that spark curiosity and generate conversations. See more of his work on the his website: https://bene.studio/

Come have a cold beverage, listen to great tunes, and Enjoy Imaginary Music!

David Bowie Monsters

David Bowie Single “Up the Hill Backwards”

“Up the Hill Backwards” is the fourth and final single from Bowie’s 1980 LP release Monsters. The B-Side features an unreleased instrumental track entitled “Crystal Japan.” Particularly special to this 12inch is the accompanying bonus material. A 12 x 12 sheet of stamps designed by Bowie himself. The fact that the perforations holding the sheet together are still in tact is a miracle. Typically things like this don’t survive 40 years of handling.

The images are of Bowie in his Pierrot clown costume. It appears that Bowie took the photo sheet and colored them in with felt pens, adding some text to a few while crossing others out with an X, which gives the sheet a feel of a “work in progress.” The front and back of the single’s cover bear the same aesthetic with a dulled pastel variation. A must for any Bowie fan.

David Bowie Single
Durand Jones Colemine Records

Durand Jones & The Indications “Cruisin to the Park” 45.

There is a lot of throwback music coming out these days. New records that capture an old sound so well they actually seem like they were made in the genre’s heyday. For example, the rock group Drab Majesty emulates that 80s synth-pop style. Kaleta & the Super Yamba Band have fooled customers into thinking we’re playing Fela Kuti. In the hip-hop world, cats like Kluas Layers mirror the beats of the 93 Golden Age with boom bap drums and echoing horns.

One of the most abundant genres to experience this new birth is Soul. Sweet Soul, in particular, which is a favorite in our shop. There are so many new labels and artists who have studied that sound and boiled it down to its concentrate for their albums. Smooth all the way through. The new Durand Jones & the Indications 45 is a prime example of this laid back neo soul groove. Perfect for cruising around town, late night deejay sets, or that mix tape you’ve been planning for that special someone.

John Lee Hooker The Healer

Promo Cassette of John Lee Hooker’s “The Healer”

Released in 1989, John Lee Hooker’s “The Healer” was the first of a series of his later albums that reached chart success in the U.S. and U.K. It featured big names like Carlos Santana, Charlie Musselwhite, and Bonnie Raitt. The band backing Hooker for the session includes the jazz drummer Ndugu Chancler. If you’re into Jazz-Funk you’ve definitely heard this man on one of your favorite LPs. Check his featured performance credits on Discogs.

Shortly after releasing this record, Hooker started hanging out in San Francisco. In particular, he could be seen at a club here in the Fillmore at what was then called Jack’s Tavern. As the story goes, Hooker liked the house band and came whenever he could to hear them play. When one of its longtime bartenders purchased the club, he changed the name to the Boom Boom Room after Hooker’s most famous song. Some say the blues man was part owner of the club but it appears the rumor is untrue – Hooker’s manager wouldn’t let him do it out of fear that the association might besmirch his name.

For further info on John Lee and the Boom Boom Room check the article http://newfillmore.com/2011/08/01/was-it-really-john-lee-hookers-joint/

Open Sesame Blue Note Records

Freddie Hubbard’s “Open Sesame” on Blue Note.

This is one of those unbelievably rare jazz records. Freddie’s first album as a leader and his first on Blue Note. 1960. The players accompanying him and his trumpet are the best-of-the-best. Tina Brooks on Tenor Sax, who also wrote two of the six compositions on the album. McCoy Tyner on piano, who would soon become part of Coltrane’s outfit. Sam Jones on Bass and Clifford Jarvis on Drums. Here everyone brings their A-game and the energy of young talent on the session is palpable to the ear from the very first note.

Adding to its rarity is the fact that Blue Note did not repress the record as often as it did other titles in its catalogue: https://www.discogs.com/master/view/177623 This original has all the indicators of the first mono: 47 West 63rd. address, deep groove on both sides, RVG stamp, “ear” mark. The cover is split but since it’s laminated, the image has held up nicely. It plays a weak VG with some crackle and a few ticks but no distortion. Sounds even better after an ultrasonic cleaning. Might sound better yet on a true mono cartridge.

The fact that it has held up so nicely is a testament to the quality Blue Note put in to both their covers and pressings. This thing looks rough but sounds astonishingly rich, as if you’re in the studio with them. Some say it’s because of the “deep groove,” but this is a misconception often supported by collectors / fanatics. The sound quality of Blue Note persisted well into the 80s. Van Gelder, the recording engineer for all the early sessions, continued on to remaster the various pressing as technology changed. For more on the Deep Groove check out: https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/blue-note-deep-groove/

Kit Sebastian LP Mr Bongo

Modern Turkish French Grooves by Kit Sebastian

If you zoom in on the hype sticker, you’ll find it mentions genres like Psychedelia, Funk, Tropicalia, Jazz, and Alternative when describing this release. Everything the Mr. Bongo label typically covers in its rich catalog. What it doesn’t advertise, however, is that this is a new band and new record. Not a re-issue or something mined from a lost tape but new kids interpreting the old grooves in their own unique style. You could throw out a number of adjectives to try and pin this record down but it really defies any one sort of genre. Let’s put it this way: if you like groovy world music, you’ll like this too. If you like Khruangbin or the Bay Area’s own Sitka Sun, you’ll like this too.

Actually, the jacket nor the sleeve says much of anything about who these guys are. But if you check out the Mr. Bongo website (https://us.mrbongo.com/collections/kit-sebastian) you’ll read the duo fronting the group have an intriguing background. Kit Martin lives and plays between London and France and the Turkish born Merve Erdem studied film in Rome, now lives between the U.S. and U.K., and is also a visual artist.

Our first batch of these sold out before they even hit the bins – no joke. The second batch just arrived and is now available in shop. We have a feeling these won’t last very long either.

Chicago Soul Boogie

1979 Chicago Boogie First Time on Vinyl – Four M Co.

It’s truly an exciting time for music on vinyl. So much stuff is being released it’s hard to keep track of it all. Of particular interest in our shop are the things that are being unearthed from back in the day. Old artists whose work, for one reason or another, was never properly released. Maybe because they were too regional, maybe they were too ahead of the curve, or maybe behind it.

In the case of Chicago’s Four M company, recently issued by Family Groove Records, their 1979 6 track E.P. was recorded in a legitimate studio but never released. The group, which formed in high school, may have been a bit early for the Boogie wave. Generally considered as soul music from 1980 -1985. The cuts on this range from the dance floor shakers to slow groove burners, with nice synths and harmonies. Check the SoundCloud teaser here: https://soundcloud.com/family-groove-records/the-four-m-company Limited to 500 copies world-wide, of which we have a few. Once these are gone, they’re gone for good.

White Label Promo Charles Mingus

White Label Promo of Charles Mingus “Ah Um”

What is it that attracts collectors to the White Label Promo? The promo is even earlier than the coveted first press. An advanced, demonstration copy sent out in anticipation of the record’s release. To create some buzz or drum up a few nice reviews. Some say they sound better. Pressed with extra care so the record sounds its best when it hits the air waves or the reviewer’s hi-fi. Maybe it’s the label itself? Something different from the normal pressing. Some labels have cooler promo variations than others. Columbia’s red and white variation is particularly striking.

This copy came from a large collection we bought a few years back. We thought we had unpacked all the records from the buy but apparently there was one box we missed, which happened to be comprised entirely of Monk and Mingus – the “M” section of the collection. Turns out there were two copies of Ah Um: one first press, one promo. Both Six-Eye labels. Both unplayed. Crazy to think that these were so well preserved after close to 60 years.

Recorded in 1959, this Mingus title is one of the most popular jazz records in our shop, next to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Not a surprise given that this record was also ahead of its time, merging hard bop and big band in a unique way. And just like that other jazz classic, this has experienced different presses, even absurd ones like a 4 LP single sided, 45 rpm press. A necessary addition to any jazz collection on any format.