Idris Ackamoor Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Presidio Theatre and Cultural Odyssey present Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids 50th Anniversary Celebration: Afro Futuristic Dreams. Free to the public March 17 & 18.

In celebration of half a century in the performing arts–beginning with the founding of his legendary band, The Pyramids in 1972– Idris Ackamoor will salute this epoch with the American premiere of Afro Futuristic Dreams in two performances at the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco for free to the public. Presented by the Presidio Theatre and Cultural Odyssey, the performances celebrate the 50th Anniversary commemorative double vinyl album release in 2023 of Afro Futuristic Dreams for STRUT Records. Performances will be Friday and Saturday, March 17 and 18, at 7:30 PM, and the Presidio Theatre is located at 99 Moraga Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129. Admission is free with reservations as a salute and homage to the audiences who have supported Idris Ackamoor over half a century. Tickets are available here.

“We are deeply honored that legendary Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids will celebrate their 50th anniversary with San Francisco and the world at the Presidio Theatre,” says Presidio Theatre Executive Director Robert Martin. “Always ahead of his time, Idris is an originator and leading exponent of Afrofuturist Jazz. These performances are a rare opportunity to hear him and The Pyramids recall and make history again, right here in San Francisco.”

Idris Ackamoor just returned from a triumphant European tour that began at the renowned Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and continued throughout Germany and Italy to sold out houses and critical acclaim.

Afro Futuristic Dreams is a departure from other albums recorded by Idris Ackamoor with The Pyramids or his other ensembles over his career as a performer and composer and features the first music Ackamoor composed for orchestral musicians. It features string quartet, additional horn section, multiple vocalists and his band, Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids. The band features Idris performing on saxophones, keytar, piano, vocals, spoken word and percussion; original Pyramids co-founder Margaux Simmons conducting the orchestra and performing on flutes, percussion, vocals; Sandra Poindexter on acoustic and electric violins, vocals, and percussion, Bobby Cobb on guitar, and vocals, original member Mark Heshima Williams on acoustic and electric basses, and George Hearst on drums.

Afro Futuristic Dreams pays homage to the present Afrofuturism movement that has embraced the science-fiction writers Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany and musician Sun Ra. Idris Ackamoor ☥The Pyramids also have been celebrated as progenitors of Afrofuturism in interviews and articles.

Says Ackamoor, “Afro Futuristic Dreams chronicles the historic ‘times we be a’livin’, the past we be feelin,’ and the future the planet is headin’ in. It is a testament to survival, unity and honesty to face our collective destiny! The title track is a psychedelic San Francisco experience inspired by George Clinton and Parliament- Funkadelic.”

Police Dem was composed for all the known and unknown black victims who have suffered at the hands of police murders and brutality including Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, George Floyd, and musician Elijah McClain. Thank You God is spiritual jazz for the 21st century in the vein of Pharaoh Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan” and “Tauhid,” and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” Nice It Up is a celebratory romp to shout out our survival and triumph over a historic tragedy of unparalleled proportions. The composition, Garland Rose, is dedicated to Idris’ granddaughter, all of our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and Darnella Frazier, the Minneapolis teenager who filmed the murder of George Floyd…all who will inherit this earth we as, ancestors ‘in waiting,’ will bequeath to them.

About The Pyramids

The Pyramids was founded fifty years ago in 1972. Saxophonist and composer Idris Ackamoor had originally left his hometown of Chicago to study music at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where his teachers numbered legendary pianist Cecil Taylor. Via the Antioch Abroad Program, Ackamoor landed a year’s study overseas in 1972, which allowed him, and two Antioch students, Margaux Simmons and Kimathi Asante, to travel to Europe and Africa where they co-founded The Pyramids. The trip took in a musical spiritual journey up into Northern Ghana, the land of the Fra Fra of Bolgatanga and the Islam-influenced Dagomba in Tamale, where Ackamoor taped some field recordings. “We played with the King’s musicians in Tamale,” he remembers. “I also undertook a healing ceremony in the bush of Bolgatanga with a Fra Fra traditional healer (a Juju Man).” Back in Yellow Springs, The Pyramids brought together all of the knowledge from their journey and released two independently produced albums including Lalibela (1973), and King Of Kings (1974). After graduating, Idris and the band headed to Oakland, California and quickly met other musicians in the thriving San Francisco Bay Area music scene where they recorded their third album, Birth/Speed/Merging in 1976.

The Pyramids played their last concert at the 1977 UC Berkeley Jazz Festival sharing the stage with vocalist Al Jarreau, and jazz legends Woody Shaw and Dexter Gordon. Out of the blue, The Pyramids announced their return in 2007. “Around 2006 there was an increased interest in the 1970s music the band recorded with many requests from record labels to re-issue the early albums,” Ackamoor explains. “The Pyramids’ three LPs were showing up on eBay for high prices.” A Berlin booking agency began organizing European dates for the band and The Pyramids were fully back in business. The momentum has continued for the group with Ackamoor landing a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gilles Peterson at his Worldwide Awards in London.

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