Traveling the Spaceways
Planet Arts Recordings
Trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah's Disper-sions of the Spirit of Ra is a little big band plus vocalists; it includes such former Arkestrans as the violinist Billy Bang, trombonist Craig Harris and bassist Radu Oluwu Ben Judah. Traveling the Spaceways (Planet Arts) features arrangements of such Ra tunes as "Love in Outer Space," "New Horizons" and, of course, the title track. The arrangements are excellent; Washington and Abdullah make the nine-piece band sound much larger. The ensemble strikes a good balance between tight and loose. The album isn't perfect-the recorded sound is too slick for such an earthy music, for example, and some of the soloists sound a bit uncomfortable playing over changes. But those are nitpicks. Among the soloists, baritone saxophonist Alex Harding is especially notable. Ra's mysticism isn't my cup of tea, but his compositions are, and Abdullah's group does a fine job giving them renewed life.