Ahmed Abdullah's Dispersions of the Spirit of Ra

Traveling the Spaceways

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Traveling the Spaceways is as beautiful an homage to Sun Ra as it gets. However, the rapturous chaos and truculence that characterized so many of the maverick composer's performances and recordings should not be expected. While this side of Sun Ra is not completely obliterated, trumpeter/arranger Ahmed Abdullah chose to concentrate on his Ellingtonian bent. The music sways with style, and the voicings are often enthralling. The opening track, "We Travel the Spaceways," sets the tone, each musician playing a clear and distinctive role thanks to Abdullah's deft arrangements. He emphasizes cohesion and elicits a fine group effort from a tight ensemble. Although Abdullah delivers some tasteful choruses, the trumpeter often defers to other bandmembers to fill the solo spots. Therefore, listeners are treated to some memorable interventions by outstanding soloists. Baritone saxophonist Alex Harding is adequately ferocious on "21st Century, Pt. 3," trombonist Craig Harris is visceral and soulful on "New Horizons," and violinist Billy Bang is simply dazzling on "They Plan" -- these last two compositions sharing a deeply moving quality. The recording also prominently features vocalists and poets, and once again Abdullah succeeds by making the vocal parts an integral and indispensable component of the music. The songs and poetry blend remarkably well and often contribute greatly to the mood of the pieces. With this remarkable outing, Abdullah outdid himself and achieved remarkable results that should not be overlooked. Back on Saturn, the master can be proud of this tribute.

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