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Rashied Al Akbar / Muhammad Ali / Earl Cross / Idris Ackamoor: Ascent of the Nether Creatures

John Sharpe By

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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.

Track Listing: Earl's Tune; Ascent of the Nether Creatures; Ascent of the Nether Creatures continued; Evenings; 4 For 1.

Personnel: Earl Cross: trumpet; Idris Ackamoor: alto and tenor saxophones; Rashied Al Akbar: bass; Muhammad Ali: drums.

Title: Ascent of the Nether Creatures | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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