Intensely abstract music sometimes finds a wider audience though a series of unlikely opportunities. Such is the story with American composer and drummer Pheeroan akLaff’s House of Spirit: Mirth. This record journeyed from New York’s loft jazz scene through the era’s premier no wave studio to eventually be lionized by Rare Groove collectors and reintroduced to a larger audience than ever by one of Britain’s best regarded record shops/labels. Remarkably, this work has never been performed live.
akLaff started his career in the Detroit jazz scene of the early 70s alongside musicians of the Tribe and Strata collectives before moving to New York in the mid-1970s to work at the centre of the vibrant loft/radical jazz scene. Since then he has worked and recorded with such luminaries as Oliver Lake, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Davis, Don Byron, Amina Claudine Myers, Julius Hemphill, Henry Threadgill and Sonny Sharrock.
The solo drum-and-percussion opus House Of Spirit: Mirth was recorded at Bob Blank’s Blank Tapes studio (Sun Ra, Kid Creole, Arthur Russell) and originally released in 1979 on the composer Oliver Lake’s private-press label. Consequently House Of Spirit: Mirth was one of the most elusive deep jazz releases of its time to collectors until London’s Soul Jazz Records featured it in a coffee table book and reissued the set early this year. Soul Jazz describes the record as “Avant-garde beyond a doubt but with an Afrocentric rhythmic intensity hard to find in the myriad of independent free/loft jazz recorded in New York at the time”.
The unmistakably funky elements of House Of Spirit: Mirth in addition to its late 70s Manhattan vibe form a spiritual link with hip hop’s origins. For this show akLaff is paired with one of Toronto’s most community-minded hip hop/spoken word performers: Ian Kamau.
Kamau was born and raised in Toronto to Trinidadian parents who immigrated to North America in 1970. His music is intensely focused and demands attention; his songs burn with intense insight into the state of Toronto’s Black community. A decade ago, Kamau started performing in talent shows and Black History Month celebrations before moving to open mics, poetry shows and college radio appearances. In 2003, Ian Kamau started to collaborate with K-Os before launching his solo career with an album entitled First. The most recent release by the hypnotic vocalist is the jaw-dropping One Day Soon (2011) on which he plays all instruments himself.
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