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From Clean Feed Records (“The Crazy Jazz Label”) comes NAM, meaning peace. Led by longtime Sun Ra trumpet player Ahmed Abdullah, it represents only one of many projects Abdullah oversees. During this live performance from New York's Vision Festival, NAM adeptly moves through genre walls like a penetrating vapor. Straight-ahead, funk, or holy noise, NAM acquits itself in whatever style it plays.
Abdullah suggests Don Cherry in the opening play of Ornette Coleman’s “Chippie,” but even muted Abdullah plays Abdullah. The band catches the quirky exuberance of Coleman, but Alex Harding’s rough toned baritone remains his own. Harding, a veteran of Julius Hemphill, Ben E. King, and Bluiett, receives a well deserved ovation for his skillful maneuvering over Kamaguchi and Weinstein’s busy rhythm section. When thrown the spotlight, Kamaguchi keeps up the heat, handing off to hot-handed Weinstein. Abdullah’s “Song of Time” takes the mood inward with Kamaguchi’s thoughtful bowing through the piece’s questing theme. Harding mostly keeps to doubling, while Abdullah cruises around in the tune.
Harding drives the funk of Weinstein’s “Ad Hoc Ism,” while Kamaguchi bows sliding. Abdullah plays blues with a plunger mute, growling and howling. Weinstein keeps a crisp beat, and eventually Kamaguchi plucks the bass freeing Harding to growl and howl on his own. After moving comments by Abdullah, the band plays Gunter Hampel’s “Serenade for Marion Brown.” Abdullah and Harding double the exotic theme, with Kamaguchi maintaining the structure on bass and Weinstein plays the beats around the beat. Horn and baritone intensify their dialogue, with Harding again using the size of his sound as an effect in itself.
The set ends with the traditional Brazilian “Canto 2 Canto 11.” Abdullah renders the opening a capella, stretching and bending horn tones, eliciting near vocal sound. After stating the languid theme with Harding, Abdullah takes a turn singing the Portuguese song with affection.
The lovely, sweet-natured ending invites repeated listenings. Ahmed Abdullah’s NAM fills a jazz lover’s cup with pungent flavors from across the spectrum.
Track Listing: Chippie;Song of time; Ad Hoc Ism; The Reverend Frank wright; Serenade for Marion Brown; Canto 2 Canto 11.
Personnel: Ahmed Abdullah, trumpet, voice; Alex Harding, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Masa Kamaguchi, double bass; Jimmy Weinstein, drums.