Earl Cross – trumpet | Idris Ackamoor – alto and tenor saxophone | Rashied Al Akbar – bass | Muhammad Ali – drums
ASCENT OF THE NETHER CREATURES written by Idris Ackamoor (Aomawa Music, BMI), EARL’S TUNE by Earl Cross, EVENINGS and 4 FOR 1 written by Earl Cross, Rashied El Akbar, Mohammad Ali and Idris Ackamoor. All music published by Aomawa Music, BMI. Recorded in the Netherlands on the 12th July, 1980. Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Produced by Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov
Tracks : Side A: 1. EARL’S TUNE 2. ASCENT OF THE NETHER CREATURES
Tracks: Side B: 1. ASCENT OF THE NETHER CREATURES (continues)
EVENINGS 2. 4 FOR 1
Enregistré en concert aux Pays-Bas en 1980
le quartette que composèrent un jour Idris Ackamoor (saxophones alto et ténor), Earl Cross (trompette passée par les formations de Charles Tyler), Rashied Al Akbar (contrebasse entendue auprès de Louis Armfield) et Muhammad Ali (batterie), prouve qu’il était possible de prôner un autre revival que celui imposé par le code de commerce de l’époque.
En refusant de briller par le son – celui de l’enregistrement en question évoquant davantage Bird & Diz, sur Verve quand même, que les pompiers travaux de tous les Marsalis possibles – comme d’épater par le geste, pour en appeler aux permissions du premier free jazz (sans la frappe motivante d’Ali, le quartette aurait-il été le même ?) et à l’impétuosité du bop.
Sur une mélodie affable (Earl’s Tune, de Cross) ou une plage d’invention atmosphérique (Ascent of the Nether Creatures, d’Ackamoor, qui renverra l’auditeur à ses travaux hétéroclites, à la tête de The Pyramids ou compilés par EM Records), le quartette invente donc un revival inédit pour être fantasque, exubérant, au final : expressif. — Guillaume Belhomme
LP version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)
The Lithuanian based No Business label deserves an award for its unstinting documentation of the loft jazz scene in NYC during the 1970s and early ’80s. Often characterized as a time when nothing was happening, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. With the influx of new talent from the mid-West and California, the performance spaces of lower Manhattan were a hotbed of new ideas, new alliances and experimental fervor. Although not the location, that’s the zeitgeist which gave rise to the quartet of journeymen captured on Ascent of the Nether Creatures from a 1980 concert at an unnamed venue in the Netherlands.
Trumpeter Earl Cross may be the best known of the foursome: he recorded with reedmen Charles Tyler and Noah Howard, as well as drummer Rashied Ali,while saxophonist Idris Ackamoor also cut his teeth with Tyler, and flew further below the critical radar with the Pyramids spiritual jazz collective. The polyphonic blending of Cross’ waspish angularities and Ackamoor’s sinuous legato is what creates the excitement on this date. However on bass Rashied Al Akbar furnishes a sturdy foundation in tandem with drummer Muhammad Ali (brother of the more famous Rashied).
Ackamoor’s two part title track, straddling both sides of the limited edition LP, provides the most compelling evidence of the unit’s worth. It begins in a miasma of exotica, with tinkling bells, rustling and flutes presaging a bittersweet colloquy between muted trumpet and bowed bass. After a wistful hymn like theme, Cross’ painterly smears atop walking bass provide an attractive backdrop to the author’s flowing alto saxophone, which with its yelping overtones, hints at the reedman’s mastery of circular breathing as a means to increase the impact of his lines.
The empathetic relationship between trumpet and bass also proves central to the group sound on the dirge-like “Evenings,” while the concluding “4 For 1” comprises a series of unaccompanied solos linked by brief snatches of full-blooded blow out, and acts as a calling card for the band’s wares. Although occasional audience chatter gives a clue to the origins of the tape, the levels are sufficiently low that it doesn’t impede enjoyment of the spirited and still vital music.
One of the nice things about reviewing is that you get to check out things you might not otherwise have the chance to hear. And of course what seems worthwhile I pass along to you, the reader. Such a rather obscure but nice album is the 1980 Netherlands club date of the quartet of Earl Cross, trumpet, Idris Ackamoor, alto and tenor, Rashied al Akbar on bass, and Muhammad Ali, drums. They gather together their collective forces for a very fire-y freebop set on Ascent of the Nether Creatures (No Busines LP 78). It is one of those limited edition vinyl releases that No Business does so well, and it is a good one.
The sound is not entirely perfect yet very clear. The music makes up for what is very slightly less than pristine sound. Cross and Ackamoor make excellent front-line soloists and have it all together on this set. Akbar is doing good things on bass. And as might be expected of Muhammad Ali (late brother of Rashied Ali), the drumming is expansive and very swinging.
They do four originals that have contrast and plenty of room for free blowing. And they come through. These are players that have not gotten near enough credit for their contributions to new thing freedom. A careful listen to this record tells you why that should not be the case.
It captures a period when free jazz was still new enough that the thrill and even ecstasy of letting it all go to the rafters was still there. There is no reason why that should not still be the case but there seems less of it now. Listen to this one and recapture some of that thrill!