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Ahmed Abdullah: Traveling the Spaceways (2005)

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Ahmed Abdullah: Traveling the Spaceways No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Travelling the Spaceways is the fruit of the labor of long-time Sun Ra trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah's Dispersions of the Spirit of Ra—a band formed after Abdullah was visited in a dream by his former band leader. His mission? To play Sun Ra's music. Abdullah surrounded himself with some fierce musicians and set out to do justice to some of Ra's vast catalog. The result does for Sun Ra's songs what the Mingus Big Band has done for that great composer's work.

The recording features a series of re-workings and propulsions from people with the ability to take this material to new—and appropriate—heights. The title track builds gradually—a triumphant, floating marvel, erupting into a cataclysmic celebration. These are moving, breathing works-in-progress by a forward-moving band. Take the timely "21'st Century Suite,"? a decades-old gem, which could've been written last week (or tomorrow!). Poet (and WBAI radio host) Louis Reyes Rivera adds a paean of human possibility. Reyes and vocalist/poet Monique Ngozi Nri complement the music and ride the rhythms masterfully. Abdullah's group presents the rich, elegant Ra—almost Elingtonian in its warmth—swinging exultantly.

Abdullah and Co. have that something extra: zeal. That's something that can't be faked. Take a tune like the boppish "Dancing Shadows"? and "Love in Outer Space."? Check Cody Moffett's tasty drumwork on the former, or Masujaa's guitar on the latter. Trombonist Craig Harris is paired with the truly stellar likes of violinist Billy Bang, Alex Harding (baritone) and Salim Washington (tenor).

This is music that conveys a deep sincerity. Bands like this one might well be able to keep not only Sun Ra's memory—but all that is good about jazz—alive.

Personnel: Ahmed Abdullah: trumpet, vocals; Billy Bang: violin; Craig Harris: trombone; Salim Washington: tenor sax; Alex Harding: barritone sax; Owuor Arunga: trumpet; Masujaa: guitar; Radu Oluwu Ben Judah: bass; Cody Moffett: drums; Monique Ngozi Nri: vocals, poetry; Miles Griffith: vocals; Louis Reyes Rivera: poetry.

Record Label: Planet Arts

Style: Modern Jazz


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