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Baker's Dozen

Jazz Is My Religion: Idris Ackamoor’s Baker’s Dozen
Siobhan Kane , September 6th, 2023 09:49

In a sprawling Baker’s Dozen, longstanding jazz legend Idris Ackamoor tells Siobhán Kane about the way Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Bob Marley and more have inspired his life and work


Pharoah Sanders – Tauhid

This is one of my favourite Pharoah albums. As a saxophonist I have always loved his playing, his compositions, his dedication and his spirit. When one speaks of spiritual jazz, Pharoah is one of the pre-eminent prophets of the genre. The whole first side is ‘Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt’, which itself is revolutionary, as I think it set the bar for ‘concept’ albums, which I really dig. There’s a unique artistic vision that runs through the entire album, it is a complete musical narrative, with a philosophical viewpoint, and personal commentary, similar to a libretto in an opera. ‘Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt’ is like a suite in two movements, and it begins with waterfall piano trills, then you have these vibrations and tinkling, rolling drums, cymbal crashes, and then Sonny Sharrock comes in playing these guitar colours and strums. It’s like someone like Hamza El Din and his oud playing which creates an eastern vibration; you can almost visualise ancient Egypt. Then everything drops off and you hear flutes as if nomads in the desert echoing these sounds, then you hear this commanding incredible rhythmical hook, one of the hippest musical hooks in my memory: “Ba dum dee eye ya”, and Pharoah just joins the congregation, blowing with a deep dive into his soul salvation and redemption.

Pharoah’s intense screaming and spiritual possession on the tenor sax is one of the solos for all ages, ending with this vocalised scat: “Bap shoo bad da hey”. ‘Thank You God’ on my new album has Tauhid as an inspiration. It’s also thirteen and a half minutes long, which could be one whole side, and also has this sweep. That’s very similar to Tauhid as it has percussion, bells, swirls, and a first movement to it, so that’s why I love Tauhid, I can play it over and over.