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Live From New York

Ensemble musikFabrik, Etienne Charles, Pulverize The Sound & Ahmed Abdullah's Diaspora

By Published: August 13, 2013
Abdullah, perhaps only half joking, says that Sun Ra came to him in his sleep, a ghost-presence suggesting that Diaspora should mean Dispersions Of The Spirit Of Ra. A large part of the band's songbook is therefore taken from the Ra repertoire, mostly the tunes that feature ensemble vocal chants. Another element is provided by Abdullah's wife Monique Ngozi Nri, who recites what are mostly her own poems, in the spaces between Ra's cosmic space. So here's the all-star line-up: Alex Harding (baritone saxophone), D.D. Jackson
D.D. Jackson
D.D. Jackson
(keyboards), Reggie Nicholson (drums), and the odd one out, mysterious bassist (electric and acoustic) Radu, apparently a local to Bed-Stuy.

Nri laid Margaret Walker's 1942 poem "For My People" over a funky but free tune, dominated by a raging baritone solo. Every spotlight stretch by Harding was delivered with maximum expression. The following section featured a group vocal, with drums and communal clap-along, rising up from a Nigerian Ebo tribal foundation. Another baritone solo jolted out, this time of a borderline tormented nature, full of aroused passion for sonic roughage, set in the midst of Sun Ra's "The Mystery Of Two." Jackson followed this with a volcanic keyboard solo, his M-Audio controls set for an electric piano sound, crunched with bassy distortion. Harding and Jackson competed for the most out-there sense of urgency, but the bandleader operated on another, no less profound, plane. Abdullah issued glistering spurts of horn-dust, often muted to create an even more tightly controlled swirl in sound.

"Strange Mathematics" blurred into "We Travel The Space Ways," the latter prompting the band to perform their cosmic hop, which soon spread its off-beat charm into the audience. The second set wasn't as majestic as the first, loosening up into an even more varied collection of material. Reggae with a South African scent, then another Ra song, "Love In Outer Space," which entered an epic multi-movement orbit, dispersed and perhaps slightly too rambling. Then, they closed out the set with an incongruous "Iko Iko," offering a jaunty New Orleans romp to leave the crowd in a more terrestrial state.

Photo Credit
Stephanie Berger

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