Jul 25, 2023, 7pm

Ahmed Abdullah at The Strand

Free with RSVP

Join Blank Forms and The Strand for a conversation with renowned Sun Ra Arkestra trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, discussing his new memoir A Strange Celestial Road: My Time in the Sun Ra Arkestra. He'll be joined by Mitch Goldman, longtime WKCR host and producer, who has known Abdullah for over forty years. Advanced signed hardcover copies will be available.


In this captivating memoir, 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 spaceways 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 loft jazz and the influence of Pan-Africanism on creative music, while 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 from Adger Cowans, Marilyn Nance, Val Wilmer, and others, A Strange Celestial Road interweaves the author’s own moving story—his battles with addiction, spiritual development, and life as a working class performer—with enthralling tales of tutelage under Cal Massey, collaborations with the likes of Ed Blackwell, Marion Brown, and Andrew Cyrille, and profound, occasionally confounding, mentorship by Sun Ra. Originally written in the 1990s with the help of Nuyorican poet Louis Reyes Rivera and published now for the first time, with a foreword by Salim WashingtonA Strange Celestial Road is not only an autobiography, but a history of a remarkable and under-documented movement in music. 

AHMED ABDULLAH joined the Sun Ra Arkestra as a trumpeter in 1974 and remained a member for more than twenty years. Born in Harlem in 1947, he became an important figure in the New York loft jazz movement, forming the group Abdullah in 1972, and going on to found the Melodic Art-Tet with Charles Brackeen, Ronnie Boykins, and Roger Blank in the early 1970s and The Group with Marion Brown, Billy Bang, Sirone, Fred Hopkins and Andrew Cyrille in 1986. Abdullah is a co-founder of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, has been the music director of Dianne McIntyre’s Sounds in Motion Dance Company, and is currently music director at the historic venue Sistas’ Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He has been a music instructor at Carnegie Hall and Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, and teaches at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan and an elementary school in central Brooklyn.

MITCH GOLDMAN has produced thousands of live events, television shows, radio programs, and digital broadcasts—both inside and outside the pop mainstream—during the last firty years. He began his career promoting concerts in Binghamton, NY. This led to Mitch managing and tour managing artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ronald Shannon Jackson, David Torn, and Vernon Reid. In 1994 Mitch began his career in television with shows like Woodstock 94The Super Bowl Halftime ShowThe Tony Awards and PBS’ Great Performances. He created, produced, and directed 3 seasons of the series Live From The Knitting Factory. His company, Small Media Large, produces multimedia branding, sales, and communications tools for clients like UBS Financial Services, Google, and Symphony Space. Mitch produces and hosts the program Deep Focus at WKCR 89.9FM New York. He was director of Jazz Programming at the station for one year. He is a graduate of Columbia University and lives in Manhattan.