Ahmed Abdullah's Dispersions of the Spirit of Ra: We Travel the Spaceways


We Travel The Spaceways


Ahmed Abdullah's Dispersions of the Spirit of Ra


Traveling the Spaceways (Planet Arts 11024)

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Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet, vocals), Craig Harris (trombone), Miles Griffith (vocals),

Billy Bang (violin), Craig Harris (trombone), Salim Washington (tenor sax), Alex Harding (bari sax), Owuor Arunga (trumpet), Masujaa (guitar), Radu Olowu Ben Judah (bass), Cody Moffett (drums), Monique Ngozi Nri (vocals, poetry), Louis Reyes Rivera (poetry)


Composed by Sun Ra, arranged by Ahmed Abdullah


Recorded: New York, February 27, 2004


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

Trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah is as qualified as any musician living to produce a tribute to Sun Ra, having recorded some 25 times with Ra's Arkestra. "We Travel the Spaceways" was, according to Abdullah in the liner notes accompanying this album, the title of the first Ra album Abdullah ever heard, in 1966. In reimagining the composition, Abdullah gathers Ra alumni violinist Billy Bang, trombonist Craig Harris, and bassist Radu Oluwu Ben Judah, as well as a cast and crew that include bari saxophonist Alex Harding and the redoubtable drummer Cody Moffett, among others.

The tune is little more than a repetitive vamp, yet it provides ample material for spontaneous invention. Radu and Harding's funky, hard-as-nails bass/bari lines, and Moffett's constantly grooving, evolving and mutating drums form the tune's foundation, over which Abdullah and others intone the vocal theme, shadowed by Masujaa's slightly distorted guitar. Like the original Ra Arkestra, Abdullah's band is loose, energetic, and manifestly committed. The performance flags briefly in spots, but Moffett's drums—never less than exhilarating—are there to pick things up when they start to lag. Not as good as the original, but a worthy tribute to the master, nevertheless.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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