Travelling the Spaceways is the fruit of the labor of long-time Sun Ra trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah's Dispersions of the Spirit of Raa 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 newand appropriateheights. The title track builds graduallya 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 Raalmost Elingtonian in its warmthswinging 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 memorybut all that is good about jazzalive.
Track Listing: We travel the Spaceways; 21st Century part 1; 21st Century part 2; 21st Century part 3;
Dancing Shadows; Love in Outerspace; Enlightenment; East of Uz; New Horizons; They Plan - dedicated
to David Bake
Personnel: Ahmed Abdullah, trumpet, vocals; Billy Bang, violin; Craig Harris, trombone; Salim
Washington, tenor sax; Alex Harding, baritone 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
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.