The Sun Ra Arkestra, both with and post Ra, is notoriously a closed shop, a collective of fine musicians who rarely if ever step out into the limelight as solo artists to make their own mark.
One of the few exceptions has been trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, a member of the Arkestra since 1975, who has recorded sparsely since the 1980s, most notably with Billy Bang. His was the clean, clear trumpet voice riding high over the dense Arkestral accompaniment, a natural leader whose impact is felt on every one of the eight tracks on this fine set.
He has a strong supporting cast with him here, notably fellow Arkestra members Alex Harding on baritone and Radu Ben Judah on bass, the renowned Bob Stewart on tuba, and Donald Smith, brother of Lonnie Liston, on piano. Don Chapman, a new name to me, plays some committed tenor sax throughout. Of the title of this set, Sistas’ Place is the Brooklyn venue where Abdullah has been musical director for some two decades.
The mix of music is much what we would expect from an Arkestra stalwart, with an opening joyous romp in Accent, righteous musical poetry on Eternal Spiralling Spirit from Monique Ngozi Nri, Abdullah’s wife, and the ebullient Magwalandini by Miriam Makeba, a 9/8 South African township jive.
Inevitably, the shadow of Ra looms large, with three Ra originals: Discipline 27 – there were 99 Disciplines in the Ra songbook – is the usual space chant, Love In Outer Space a 6/4 slow dance chart with poetic support, Lights On A Satellite an unrolling intervallic delight. The concluding Reminiscing, written by Ra bassist Shobedoo and a showpiece for Ben Judah, allows everyone to have a good blow to end proceedings in great style.
MP3 downloads and recording streams of this album are available from all the usual outlets.
Find out more about Diaspora Meets Afro Horn: Jazz – A Music Of The Spirit/Out Of Sistas’ Place at ahmedian.com.
Accent; Eternal Spiralling Spirit; Discipline 27; Love In Outer Space; Magwalandini; Lights On A Satellite; Terra Firma; Reminiscing (68.41)
Ahmed Abdullah (t, flh, v); Don Chapman (ts); Alex Harding (bar); Bob Stewart (tba); Donald Smith (p); Radu Ben Judah (b); Ronnie Burrage, Roman Diaz, Francisco Mora Catlett (d, pc); Monique Ngozi Nri (v).