The August 1971 live performance at Antioch College’s Kelly Hall that would become Idrissa’s Dream begins with “The Shepherd’s Tune.” It’s an appropriate outset, as its melodies, riffs, timbres, and energy would inform the proceedings as a whole.
The concert is the only known major recording of The Collective, a quintet led by saxophonist Idris Ackamoor in a precursor to his mythic group The Pyramids. The latter group’s 1970s output—influenced by Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Charles Tyler, and African music—was prominently reintroduced last year with the AOMAWA box set. Those recordings are a good reference point for The Collective, which bears some similarities but deep differences.
The Collective was influenced by Ackamoor’s study of the jazz and Black avant-garde with Tyler and pianist Lester Knibbs—then a professor at Antioch—and his background in the classical avant-garde of Anton Webern, the Second Viennese school, and Charles Ives. On “The Shepherd’s Tune” and “Beginning Roots Part 1,” the band introduce figures and phrases that both evolve drastically over each disc of the album, acting as almost a phantom adhesive that keeps these long stretches of music united. A simple arpeggiated figure that Ackamoor and Knibbs introduce in “Shepherd” expands as the music reaches ecstatic heights of formless power and contracts to a delicate ballet over the 28-minute title track.
Similarly, Knibbs’s switches between operatic harmony and playful, beboppish chords creates a wide space for Ackamoor and the band to explore on the second disc. The second part of “Beginning Roots” starts with an African percussion breakdown, transitions to a spikey section of group improvisation, then a sweeping piece of solo piano exploration that speaks to how great Ackamoor and his cohort’s vision was for the music they’d make for the next several decades.