A Strange Celestial Road

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My Time in the Sun Ra Arkestra by Ahmed Abdullah

A wild and thrilling account of life with Sun Ra's Arkestra and New York's avant-garde jazz scenes of the 1970s-90s.

"There are other worlds they have not told you of," Sun Ra said.

The trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, a longtime member of Sun Ra's Arkestra, has journeyed through several of those extraterrestrial worlds of sound, and returned to Planet Earth to tell the tale, in this invigorating memoir of a life in Black Creative music.

In this captivating book, the first full-length account of life in the Arkestra by any of its members, Harlem-born trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah recounts two decades of traveling the space-ways with the inimitable composer, pianist, and big-band leader Sun Ra.

Gigging everywhere from the legendary Bed-Stuy venue The East to the National Stadium in Lagos, Abdullah paints a vivid picture of the rise of the New York loft jazz scene and the influence of Pan-Africanism on creative music, while also capturing radical artistic and political developments across Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan in the 1970s and ’80s.

Richly illustrated with more than fifty pages of photographs and posters, A Strange Celestial Road interweaves the author’s own moving story - his spiritual development as a Buddhist, his battles with addiction, the tribulations of fatherhood, and life as a working class performer, educator and cab driver - with enthralling tales of tutelage under Archie Shepp collaborator Cal Massey, collaborations with the likes of Ed Blackwell, Marion Brown, and Andrew Cyrille, and profound, occasionally confounding, mentorship by Sun Ra.

Published by Blank Forms.