Ahmed Abdullah



Ahmed Abdullah


Ahmed Abdullah recollects his experience as a jazz musician, composer, educator and activist. He describes the Brooklyn jazz scenes from the 1970s to 2010, citing specific places, performers, and the intersections of music, politics, and community.

In 1970, Abdullah moved from Harlem to Brooklyn to live closer to his work at the 1310 New Directions Day Care Center on Atlantic Avenue. He studied with the prominent composer Cal Massey who was deeply involved in Brooklyn’s jazz culture and history. In describing the jazz scene at the time, he remembers The Muse, Blue Coronet, and The East as some of the most popular locales where new and esteemed artists played jazz. Private music scenes were also in musicians’ apartments, particularly those in the Williamsburg area, where musicians frequently came over to rehearse in groups.

Abdullah discusses the involvement of Brooklyn’s jazz music and artists in the community and politics of the era. He contends that the 1970s jazz culture was an outgrowth of the Black Arts Movement and other social currents of the 1960s. In particular, he recalls Cal Massey doing a benefit for the Black Panther Party and the community activism of the East when it worked together with the 1310 New Directions Day Care Center to create a head start and cultural awareness program for black youth. Abdullah also describes and gives his perspectives on musicians’ organizations, such as the Collective Black Artists and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

In detailing his music career from the 1970s onward, he talks about playing with the Melodic Art-Tet and the impact that Sun Ra and the Sun Ra Arkestra had on his life. Abdullah narrates at length what it was like working with Sun Ra and the Arkestra from 1975-1988, living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1988, Abdullah returned to Brooklyn that already moved on to a new music scene. After Sun Ra’s passing, Abdullah and his wife produced music for the Arkestra to resurrect the band until 1997.

Abdullah began to write a memoir about his experiences with Sun Ra, with the help of the poet Louis Reyes-Rivera. Together, they worked from Sista’s Place where Abdullah was and continues to be the Music Director at present. He talks extensively about Sista’s Place as a performance space for jazz and the symbiotic relationship it strives to create between artists and the community. Abdullah discusses the structure of the performances at Sista’s Place and the importance of having conversations with artists to improve community outreach and music itself. Additionally, he notes how Sista’s Place and his work as its Music Director has led him to working with Jazz 966 to form the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium and take leadership until 2006.
Abdullah concludes by sharing his perspectives on the music education, and his goals and work as a music educator. At present, he teaches at PS3, the New School, and Lehman College.


Willard Jenkins
Jennifer Scott
Kaitlyn Greenidge
Weeksville Heritage Center


Brooklyn, NY


Ahmed Abdullah


April 6, 2010






Weeksville Heritage Center


Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians
Black Arts movement
Black Panther Party
Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
Massey, Cal, 1927-1972
Collective Black Artists
Jazz musicians
Sun Ra
Sun Ra Arkestra
New School (New York, N.Y.)
African American jazz musicians


Willard Jenkins
Jennifer Scott
Kaitlyn Greenidge


Ahmed Abdullah


Park Plaza Restaurant
Brooklyn, N.Y.


46 minutes

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