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Diaspora & Afro Horn | Jazz: A Music of the Spirit / Out of Sistas' Place

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Jazz: Avant-Garde Jazz Spoken Word: Poetry Moods: Type: Improvisational
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Jazz: A Music of the Spirit / Out of Sistas' Place

by Diaspora & Afro Horn

Music of the spirit emerges from the African Diaspora and the concept is that this music can move people to the higher part of their beingness.
Genre: Jazz: Avant-Garde Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Accent
Diaspora & Afro Horn
7:27 $0.99
2. Eternal Spiraling Spirit
Diaspora & Afro Horn
17:23 $0.99
3. Discipline 27
Diaspora & Afro Horn
6:45 $0.99
4. Love in Outer Space
Diaspora & Afro Horn
9:17 $0.99
5. Magwalandini
Diaspora & Afro Horn
11:09 $0.99
6. Lights on a Satellite
Diaspora & Afro Horn
7:29 $0.99
7. Terra Firma
Diaspora & Afro Horn
1:40 $0.99
8. Reminiscing
Diaspora & Afro Horn
8:00 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Diaspora Meets AfroHorn
Jazz: A Music of the Spirit
Out of Sistas’ Place

Featuring: Ahmed Abdullah, trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals, Francisco Mora Catlett, multi-percussion, Monique Ngozi Nri, poetry and vocals, Alex Harding, baritone saxophone, Don Chapman, tenor saxophone, Bob Stewart, tuba, Donald Smith, piano, Radu Ben Judah, bass, Ronnie Burrage, multi-percussion and Roman Diaz, percussion.

The History
This year past, many of the people I have known or knew of throughout most of my existence as a musician, left the planet, people like Cecil Taylor, Hamiet Blueitt, Sonny Fortune, Ntozake Shange, Randy Weston, Ramsey Ameen, Joe Rigby, and Roy Hargrove, to name just a few. The recurring loss of so many people who had contributed so much to the culture was overwhelming and made me think about Legacy. How do I want to be thought of when I leave this planet? What is my contribution to our culture?

On June 20, 2019, I was asked to speak at the memorial of Coltrane Chimeranga, a warrior brother who was so inspirational to my presence as Music Director of Sistas’ Place. As well, Chimeranga supported the thesis that I initiated and we created defining Jazz as a Music of the Spirit.

Sistas’ Place, located in the heart of Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant, is now a historic landmark institution. In 1998, when I began as Music Director there, I brought with me a history of having been a participant in a great and yet under-documented era in the music called the Loft Movement. That era was characterized by self-determination and it was a period of time where one could establish oneself by working at Lofts run by musicians. My early life in the music was documented by working at Ali’s Alley (run by Rashied Ali), Studio Rivbea (run by Sam and Bea Rivers), The Brook (run by Charles Tyler) and of course Studio We (run by James Duboise and Juma Sultan).

One of the things that has been critical to my ongoing quest has been my creative and life partnership with Monique Ngozi Nri. In addition to raising our family, we have worked collaboratively on productions and on our music for more than 20 years. The stability and sometimes contention of our relationship both on and off stage has led to a growth and maturity in my life and music.

This is important because it is my firm belief that we are all put here to do something unique. As an African in America, I also believe that we have to have a concept of the relay race we are in. Passing the baton. I was recently reminded of that when our daughter Tara Abdullah Nri graduated from the same High School, Brooklyn Tech, that her two brothers and I graduated from but having had the baton passed to her she came out with a gold medal for her work as a violinist in the orchestra. She took our efforts and ran with the wind at her back to the finish line.

For me passing the baton is a little different. In order to have the reputation that would give me the notoriety to be the Music Director of Sistas’ Place, I would have to pay much respect to those aforementioned musicians who had established venues where other musicians could experiment thereby advancing the music and the people. Working at those venues is what allowed me to be able to perform with Sun Ra and the Arkestra which allowed for a modicum of international recognition.

The curious thing about Sistas’ Place is how I came to be the Music Director there. In 1998, I was working on my memoirs with poet Louis Reyes Rivera, who had been recommended to me by Amiri Baraka. We were working right in front of the entrance to the venue sitting and writing. I would also play with Louis’ group called the Jazzoets every 1st and 3rd Sunday afternoon. After a few months of doing that, I was asked by Viola Plummer, to book musicians into the club. 21 years later and a Historic Landmark, I’m still doing it.

By 2004, what we were doing in Bedford Stuyvesant caught the attention of a music producer in Italy named Gianni, who wanted us to include some of the musicians from our venue into his series at Teatro Manzoni in Milan. We selected 4 different acts all of which had been nurtured if not created at Sistas’ Place. One band was Gary Bartz and strings with Akua Dixon’s Quartett Indigo. Another was a band I created for Sistas’ Place with Sonny Fortune, Odean Pope, John Hicks, Reggie Workman, and Rashied Ali, One For Trane, we called it. The other was my band Diaspora which I say is an acronym meaning Dispersions of the Spirit of Ra. That band included Billy Bang, Salim Washington, Alex Harding, Craig Harris, Radu Ben Judah, Jimmy Weinstein, Monique Ngozi Nri, and Louis Reyes Rivera. Finally, we did a Tribute to Eubie Lake and Chief Bey and used Bluiett, Mickey Davidson, Kamati Dinizulu and a group of young musicians called Blue Coda, led by a brilliant young vibraphonist named Derrick Barker.

We set up a mini-tour with our venue, a black-owned organization in Newark run by Ron Slim Washington, and Sweet Rhythms in the village run by James Brown. The success of the project was fantastic spiritually as it gave a clear sense of the possibilities of self-determination in this music. We had created something that came from several historical and cultural understandings and our next step was to name this thing we created. We called it, Jazz: A Music of the Spirit and made the case that for a certain quality of the music, that is what it has always been, in fact, all of the artforms that have been about moving us forward as a people are “…of the spirit” Cause that’s who we are!

Louis Reyes Rivera, two of whose poems Monique does on this recording, left the planet in 2012. He was my good friend and this recording is certainly dedicated to him. During the time we were formulating this thesis called Jazz: A Music of the Spirit, Louis had a show on WBAI called Perspectives, which he used to examine many different things related to the arts, politics or anything else that might have caught Louis’ fancy. Louis and I were able to have on-air discussion with people such as (Dr) Larry Ridley, (Dr) Farah Jasmine Griffin, (Dr) Salim Washington, Akua Dixon, (Dr) RJ Kelly and Monique Ngozi Nri, as we were formulating this through on-air discussions, Louis and I would write the salient points down. This concept is, therefore, a synergistic one that was initiated by me but which we created. We originally only had four male progenitors but my feminist wife Monique was not having that so we also got four female progenitors. Now, if you want to know what we are talking about you could just reference one of the artists we labeled as “progenitors” namely Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Jackie Mclean, Betty Carter, Mary Lou Williams, Nina Simone and Aminata Moseka aka Abbey Lincoln.

All of them were chosen for different characteristics or principles we felt were important to pass on to the next generation so we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. For instance, we say that if your music is “of the spirit,” then it seeks to raise the level of your humanity and everyone around you… this art form is about educating people, giving back to the community in some way…it is rooted in a liberation understanding…it is about building institutions…there is an understanding that we are a spiritual people living a physical existence so there is some understanding of the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Beingness, or whatever you seek to call It.

The forces that brought Francisco Mora Catlett and I together comes out of this thesis because I have been teaching about these artists in elementary school and at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music since 2002. Francisco, who joined Sun Ra’s ensemble the year before me in 1974, was in the band when I first started. Although we have been in contact throughout the years, recently, within the last two years, he started calling me to play in his band AfroHorn and I have been using him for projects as well. In 2018, he came to my Sun Ra class and did a lecture-demonstration a couple of times and he also participated in a performance that combined the elementary school kids with the New School students in a Jazz Puppet Opera called Sun Ra Returns featuring all Sun Ra music.

This particular project, Diaspora Meets AfroHorn, comes specifically out of a performance I did with AfroHorn at the Zinc Bar on February 16, 2019. On that Saturday we were making history at Sistas’ Place with another put together group for our venue, this time with Reggie Workman and I collaborating to come up with a band that he was leading featuring Buster Williams on bass, Lenny White on drums and pianist Jason Moran. We called that project Out of the Collective. And we were making history at the Zinc Bar with AfroHorn, this time featuring Donald Smith and Radu from Diaspora along with Sam Newsome and Bob Stewart from AfroHorn.

A couple that frequents Sistas’ Place, Tammy Hall, and Norris Thompson, had been telling us, for months about a recording studio on Fulton Street that they were affiliated with. So, the inspiration for this recording was sparked on that evening of February 16th, 2019 and two months later on April 19, 2019, we were in the studio at 1271 Fulton Street recording this project. A week later we performed with the combined bands at Sistas’ Place on April 27, 2019. The only change in personnel is that Sam Newsome made the live performance and is not on the studio recording but Alex Harding is on the studio recording and could not make the live performance.

The Music:
Accent (composer: pianist Earl Coleman)
Earl Coleman is a Brooklyn pianist and composer who I had the pleasure of working within the early 1970s. Accent is a composition of his that stayed with me over the years. The triplets in the melody always presents a challenge to the player. Ronnie Burrage is the drummer

Eternal Spiraling Spirit (composer: Ahmed Abdullah, poem: A Place I’ve Never Been, Louis Reyes Rivera recited by Monique Ngozi Nri). Eternal Spiralling Spirit was on my first recording as a leader, Life’s Force, released 40 years ago. This version of it with Louis Reyes Rivera’s poem is something that came out of Louis and I working together at Sistas’ Place. He had written the poem as a dedication to Malcolm X and I had written the song as a dedication to reincarnation. The power of the two together is something to behold. Monique’s rendition of the poem is in a class by itself. Francisco Mora Catlett is the drummer.

Discipline 27 (composer: Sun Ra with additional words and music by Ahmed Abdullah). Francisco and I both come out of the Sun Ra family. This particular Discipline, of which there were 99 in the Sun Ra book, is also called In Some Far Place. Sun Ra often used this composition to begin his performances. The recitation of the poetry is by Monique Ngozi Nri and Ahmed Abdullah. Ronnie Burrage is the drummer.

Love in Outer Space (composer: Sun Ra, poetry: Louis Reyes Rivera recited by Monique Ngozi Nri). This classic Sun Ra composition has evolved over the years. When I first joined the band in the mid-1970’s Sun Ra would play it on the keyboards and dancers would move to the predominant 6/4 rhythm pattern played with everyone in the band playing some kind of percussion instrument. Francisco remembered what the rhythm was which was the hook to what we have. The poem, once again, is by Louis Reyes Rivera and recited by Monique Ngozi Nri. Francisco Mora Catlett is the drummer.

Magwalandini (composer: Miriam Makeba, arrangement: Ahmed Abdullah). This song comes from South Africa and is therefore out of the Diaspora book. The melody should sound like someone singing to a 9/8 rhythm with a South African Township accent.

Lights On a Satellite (composer: Sun Ra arrangement: Ahmed Abdullah). This song deals with Sun Ra’s command of intervals and the poetry is out of sight!

Terra Firma (Poetry written by Monique Ngozi Nri), this original poem performed by Monique is delivered over the rhythm of an AfroHorn composition called Ye Ye Olude. It also gives Bob Stewart an opportunity to shine as he closes

Reminiscing (composer: Shobedoo) The bass player who also worked with Sun Ra during the time that both Francisco and I were in the band contributed this song. Reminiscing’s inclusion is significant as an example of the Music of the Spirit. As a practitioner of the Buddhism of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Shobedoo, was brought into the practice by bassist Buster Williams. Shobedoo was the person who brought Francisco Mora Catlett into the practice and Francisco brought Alex Harding into the practice. Alex and I have been friends since he came to New York in the mid-90s and at the recommendation of Francisco came to my house and chanted, sealing the deal for a lasting friendship.

Notes and Tones by Greg Tate

Sun Ra once described his music as ‘pictures of infinity’. As one of the creative forces who liberated the artform some call The Music (and others call jazz) into realms of infinite creative possibility Ra led by example in myriad roles: as a player, composer, band organizer, conductor, social activist, political thinker, classroom instructor, ringleader.

The Ra legacy, in total, is not one many of even the most adept acolytes are prepared to represent. One exception to that rule is our brother Ahmed Abdullah who we first heard trumpeting in Ra’s Arkestra roughly 45 years ago in Washington DC. Abdullah impressed us then as a horn voice of exceptional taste, technique and daring. In the intervening years, Abdullah has maintained his commitment to the horn and to the high bar Ra established for highly evolved players to serve both The Music and The Community.

As musical director for the Brooklyn venue, Sistas' Place, Abdullah has spent two decades perfecting a curatorial approach to booking which has forged high concept collaborations between major artists such as Gary Bartz, Odeon Pope and Akua Dixon and featured canonical Black Classical repertoire such as that of John Coltrane.

Abdullah has also seen the last twenty years teaching in New York’s public schools and in The New School’s jazz program. At the latter he developed a performance oriented course based on Sun Ra’s music and philosophy.

This buoyant, inventive and bold album is a testament and re-assertion of Abdullah’s ongoing creative journey as an artist in his own right. It is also a legacy statement that reinvigorates the branch of The Music his generation furthered in 70s Gotham. That branch has had various names attached to it over the years—Free Jazz, Avant Grade, Fire Music, Energy Music, New Black Music, Great Black Music, Freedom Swing, Loft Jazz.
Abdullah’s cadre were the second generation of players to take up the challenge of transforming the sound of The Music by breaking with conservative notions of jazz and embracing unbridled sonic and rhythmic exploration.

Among the many enduring innovations Ra brought to The Music was that any style of music produced by Blackfolk (and really, any other folk) anywhere on this earth, and from any time period, was welcome as a resource for improvisational and compositional motivation, inspiration and experimentation.

This ease with serving multi-ethnic musical diversity on a platter is heard throughout Music Of the Spirit, Diaspora Meets AfroHORN. The headlong riff which drives the opener, Accent, harkens to the hard-juking territory swing orchestras of the southwestern US which spawned the Basie and Jay McShann units. The freewheeling pianistics of Donald Smith let you know this outing will be anything but a doctrinaire reprise of that territory swing band glories. Smith’s attack on the key expands the territory to include the space ways now traversed by all free thinking Afronauts.

‘Discipline 27’ is buttshaking anthem from the Sun Ra songbook and a prime example of the lunging and polyrhythmic counterpoint Ra introduced into The Music’s bag of tropes. Abdullah and life partner, poet Monique Ngozi Nri, deliver a bouncy recitation of Ra’s prophetic lyrics: ‘’In some far place/Many light years in space…we’ll build a better kind of world of abstract dreams/and we’ll wait for you.’’

Drummer Ronnie Burrage’s animated and neck-goosing backbeat keeps things well-swung and propulsive, especially during Don Chapman’s fleet but fulsome tenor solo.
On two tracks, Eternal Spiraling Spirit/A Place I've Never Been, and Love In Outer Space, Nri also delivers the words of the late poetic legend and grassroots cultural worker Louis Reyes Rivera— a longtime friend and collaborator of Abdullah’s. Eternal is particularly noteworthy for the poem’s horrific re-telling of Malcolm X’s assassination from the POV of an anguished bullet, here re-imagined as reluctant and horrified being made to commit the soul-shattering evil deed.

By contrast, Miriam Makeba’s ‘Magwaladini’ provides a jaunty township lilt and lift to the proceedings. Abdullah provides a lithe and sinuous flugelhorn excursion which provides ballast and chiaroscural dips into the light and dark corners of Makeba’s scene painting of 60s SA. When Alex Harding blows in hard on baritone right afterwards we know its Nation Time. The barrelhouse hand-jive provided by Smith rocks the house and shakes the rafters like a guerrilla force sweeping in to declare the party-hardy aftermath of African victory over apartheid.

On Reminiscing, a piece written by longtime Sun Ra bassist Shoobeedo, upright torchbearer Radu ben Judah slides his way into some slinky but locomotive support for a lengthier exposition by Chapman, whose powers of ancestral recall saxophonically bloom into a battle-scarred palimpsest. The drumming of Francisco Mora Catlett keeps thermonuclear fires during in this musical starship’s engine room and memory banks.

True to his mandate that The Music called Jazz must provide its ride-or-die devotees with a Music of The Spirit, Abdullah has conjured an album that is bursting with cathartic lyricism, which is by turns strident, sanguine and mystical, a suite of material which generously honors the trumpeter’s past present and futuristic visions of a more just tomorrow for all within earshot. Not least, all those who constitute the diasporically and cosmically aligned congregants of his Afro Horn’s widely-dispersed intergalactic and Afrocentric fellowship.



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