Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Abdullah, Ahmed (Leroy Bland)
Abdullah, Ahmed [Leroy Bland] , trumpeter, composer; b. Harlem, NY, 10 May 1947. His father was Lubia Bland (died 10/16/92), his mother was Anna Townes Bland (died 3/29/92) and his three sisters are Marilyn, Lorraine and Helen. Mother, Anna Bland dies 3/29/92. Abdullah began playing trumpet at age 13-14 in response to death of oldest sister Marilyn, who was instrumental in introducing him to the music. The impact of her death, combined with other major family changes, seemingly could only be negotiated through music. When he was 16 his family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Attended Brooklyn Technical High School, Queens College and Kingsborough Community College. Changed his name to Ahmed Abdullah at age 18, due to the influence of Malcolm X and a brief conversion to Islam. Studied trumpet technique privately with Chris Capers, Carmine Caruso, James Stubbs. Studied composition with Cal Massey.
His frst professional performing experience was with the Master Brotherhood (Joe Rigby, Arthur Williams, Les Walker, Joe Falcon, Steve Reid, Mustafa Abdul Rahim), 1968-1972. He also worked with Cliff Driver and the Ram Rods (1972) backing up singers like Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Little Johnny Taylor. Worked with Joe Simon along with tenorman Lonnie Youngblood. Was a founding member of the collective known as the Melodic Artet 1970-1974 (Charles Brackeen, Ronnie Boykins, William Parker and Roger Blank). Formed his own ensemble, Abdullah in 1972. The Melodic Artet was one of the groups to open Sam Rivers Studio Rivbea during the New York Musicians Festival of 1972. Both Abdullah and the Melodic Artet participated in the New York Musicians' Festival of 1973, held at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.
Through the Artet's members he met Sun Ra. Joined the Sun Ra Arkestra in April 1975 (on and off until 1997), including the Antibes Jazz Festival, the Lugano Jazz Festival, the Soviet Georgia Jazz Festival, the Live Under The Sky Festival in Japan, a Festival held in Istanbul Turkey, a Canadian tour and performances on the continent of Africa at the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in Lagos, Nigeria (1977), and Carnegie Hall, the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, the Strand Theater in Key West Florida, and two weeks at the Five Spot Cafe. After Ra's death he worked during 1993-97 at reshaping the Arkestra.
He worked with the choreographer and dancer Dianne Mcintyre as musical director (1973-1983). He has also worked briefly with Sam Rivers (touring in 1977), Hamiett Bluiett and Rashied Ali as a sideman. In 1979 he worked with Ed Blackwell, and again in April until August of 1991, with gigs at the Village Vanguard, Northsea Jazz Festival, and the festivals in New Orleans and Montreal.
In 1982 he formed the collective New Dimensions in Music with Kalaparusha, Sirone and Rashied Sinan. In 1986 he founded The Group with Marion Brown, Billy Bang, Andrew Cyrille Ahmed Abdullah and Sirone. The Group did at least one European tour and quite a few gigs along the Eastern seaboard.
In 1987, he also formed the Solomonic Unit which featured Charles Moffett. The group toured the US and Europe, and in 1989, through the National Endowment for the Arts they toured for the Arts America program of the US Information Agency. While working for the Carnegie Hall Shelter Concert Series he expanded the group to a sextet with Moffett, Carlos Ward, Billy Bang, guitarist Masujaa, and Fred Hopkins or John Ore on bass. In October 1991, the Solomonic Sextet toured through the USIA to Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, including the Sofia Jazz Days in Sofia Bulgaria in which they performed at the National Palace of Culture to 5,000 people; the Skopje Jazz Festival in which the group was filmed for national television ; the Dmitria Festival, an international festival of the arts in Thessaloniki Greece (the Solomonic was the only jazz group on the festival and Abdullah was honored with a medal from the Mayor of the city. In Istanbul Turkey, the band shared a double bill with the Max Roach to inaugurate the first festival of modern Jazz in Turkey. In October of 1992 he took the Solomonic Sextet to Germany and performed at the Leverkreusen Jazz Festival. This was filmed for television and shown throughout Germany and Hollanf. With the death of Moffett on Feb. 14, 1997 the name of the Solomonic was changed to Diaspora.
Since 1988 he has worked as a teaching artist for Carnegie Hall, and the Orchestra of St. Luke as a lecturer on music. Since 1980 he spent many years doing lecture demonstrations for Young Audiences with the dancer/choreographer Mickey Davidson.
In 1998 he formed the Sun Ra All-Star Project and performed at the Northsea Jazz Festival and the Montreux Detroit festival. The same year he served as Music Director of Sistas' Place in Brooklyn. In 1999 he helped to organize the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium which produced annual Jazz festivals in Brooklyn, and co-founded the collective ensemble NAM (Alex Harding, Masa Kamaguchi and Jimmy Weinstein). NAM tours Spain and Portugal during the summer of 2000. Also in 2000, he expanded his work with Carnegie Hall teaching recorder to elementary school children. February 16, 2001 he produced a tribute to Max Roach in Brooklyn at Roach's childhood church, The Concord Baptist Church of Christ. Also in 2001 he accepted a position at New School University teaching a Sun Ra Ensemble, and he received a grant from NYSCA and Aaron Copland Fund to record the Sun Ra All-Star Project.
Twin sons Rashid and Shahid were born June 6,1975 to Ahmed Abdullah and Iyabode Taylor (who died March 29,1993). He married Monique Ngozi Nri, poet, journalist and administrator, in 1992 and they had a daughter Tara Abdullah Nri on September 12, 2001. He has practiced Buddhism since 1990.
Sekaitsu Kojyo Inkai (Life Improvement Committee) (1975); Steve Reid and the Master Brotherhood (1976); Wildflowers Volume III (1976; one track); Live at Ali's Alley (1978); Life's Force (1979); Liquid Magic (1987); The Solomonic Quintet (1987); Diaspora/Dedication (1997); NAM: Actual Proof (1999)
Arthur Blythe: The Grip, Metamorphosis (1977); Billy Bang: The Fire Within (1984);
Over 25 recordings with Sun Ra including "Live at Montreux,""Cosmos" (both 1976), Blue Delight (1988), Purple Nights (1989), Destination Unknown (1992; last one with Ra); Live at Kimball's, under Marshall Allen (1995)
Was an active participant in the Loft Movement, 1972-1979--dozens of unreleased recordings including work with Sam Rivers, Hamiet Bluiett, Rasheid Ali, Ted Daniel, Ed Blackwell, Sunny Murray.
Tapes and videos of New Dimensions in Music (1982 ff.)
Many tapes with The Group (1986 ff.)
Several tapes with Ed Blackwell Project, 1991
As many as 50 unissued tapes with Sun Ra.
Interview about Sun Ra, WKCR-FM, 1987
Audio and video tapes of 1991 State Department tour
Five hours of interview, recordings and live performance, WKCR-FM, Jan. 1994
Skopje Jazz Festival
Leverkreusen Jazz Festival
He has written a memoir, Traveling the Spaceways/ A Strange Celestial Road; excerpts appear on website. It will eventually appear as a book.
17 North Elliot Place
Brooklyn, NY 11205
Tel (718) 237-1246