The afro-jazz multi-instrumentalist and Pyramids composer talks pan-African music, black aesthetics and psychedelic discoveries.
Born Bruce Baker in Chicago only a few years after the end of World War II, the artist Idris Ackamoor has lived a life steeped in African culture and sounds. Mentored by the late pianist Cecil Taylor, Ackamoor formed the group the Pyramids as an extension of Taylor’s Black Music Ensemble. Not unlike Sun Ra’s Arkestra, the Pyramids created a theatrical and cosmic display of time- and space-bending African music, releasing a trio of albums in the ’70s — all self-released on Pyramid Records. — that made Ackamoor a cult figure in 20th-century jazz. For 35 years, Ackamoor has been the executive and artistic co-director of Cultural Odyssey, a multidisciplinary San Francisco performance company that he founded. In the late ’90s he returned to the studio and stage with the Pyramids — his most recent album is 2018’s An Angel Fell on Strut Records.