Ahmed Abdullah (b. 1947) was born and raised in New York City. Abdullah began to learn his instrument when he was 13 and was attracted to New York´s active jazz scene from early on hearing live many of the key performers of the new jazz of the early 1960s particularly after moving from Harlem to Manhattan´s Lower East Side. He also saw the Sun Ra Arkestra perform at Slug´s already in the mid-1960s. As a trumpet player, Ahmed Abdullah was influenced by Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham, Don Cherry and Booker Little among others but considers composer and trumpeter Cal Massey, with whom he studied in the late 1960s, and drummer Charles Moffett, who was a member of his Solomonic Unit, as his most important influences along with Sun Ra.
Among Ahmed Abdullah´s first professional experiences were his membership in two cooperative groups, the Melodic Art-Tet (with Charles Brackeen, Ronnie Boykins, William Parker and Roger Blank) and the Master Brotherhood (with Joe Rigby, Arthur Williams, Mustafa Abdul Rahim, Les Walker, Joe Falcon and Steve Reid), in the early 1970s. During the 1970s, Abdullah also played with Ed Blackwell, Arthur Blythe, Billy Bang, Dianne McIntyre, Sam Rivers, Hamiet Bluiett, Rashied Ali and many others.
Abdullah has led his own ensembles since 1972. These have included Abdullah (with Vincent Chancey, Muneer Abdul Fatah, Jerome Hunter, Jay Hoggart and Rashied Sinan), The Solomonic Unit (initially with Frank Lowe, Wilber Morris and Charles Moffett and later with Carlos Ward and David S. Ware), NAM (with Alex Harding, Masa Kamaguchi and Jimmy Weinstein), Diaspora (originally a quintet and currently an 11-member repertoire ensemble dedicated to the music of Sun Ra) and Ebonic Tones. Abdullah also organized the co-operative ensemble The Group (with Marion Brown, Billy Bang, Sirone, Fred Hopkins and Andrew Cyrille) in the 1980s. Each of Ahmed Abdullah´s own groups has issued recordings that have been highly acclaimed by the critics, including Life´s Force (About Time) and Live at Ali´s Alley (Cadence) by Abdullah, Featuring Charles Moffett (Silkheart) by Ahmed Abdullah´s Solomonic Quintet, Liquid Magic (Silkheart) by the Ahmed Abdullah Quartet, Dedication (CIMP) and Traveling the Spaceways (Planet Arts) by Diaspora, and Actual Proof (CIMP) and Song of Time (Clean Food) by NAM.
In addition to his own groups, Ahmed Abdullah was a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra, on and off, from 1975 until Sun Ra passed on in 1993 and was featured on over 25 recordings with the Arkestra, including Live at Montreux, Cosmos, Destination Unknown and Mayan Temples.
Abdullah worked for Carnegie Hall´s Education Department for 15
years as a performing and teaching artist. He also worked for the Brooklyn
Philharmonic in that capacity. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at
the jazz and contemporary music department of the New School University
in New York City and a Teaching Fellow with the New York City Department
Alex Harding (b. 1967) was born and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Harding started on the tenor saxophone as a child but also studied the soprano, alto and baritone saxophones as well as the clarinet and flute. During high school, Harding decided to make the baritone saxophone and bass clarinet his main instruments.
Harding studied music in his early years with Ernest Rogers, Yusef Lateef, Beans Bows and Herbie Williams and had an opportunity to play with Wynton Marsalis and Donald Byrd while still in high school. After settling in New York in 1993 and a stint touring with a Haitian group called the Phantoms, Harding joined Julius Hemphill´s Saxophone Sextet. He also began performing with Muhal Richard Abrams, Craig Harris, Lester Bowie, Frank Lacy, Oliver Lake, David Murray´s Big Band, the Mingus Big Band and Jayne Cortez Firespitters among others.
In addition, Harding has recorded with Greg Osby, Frank Lowe, Rodney Whittaker,
the Julius Hemphill Sextet and Hamiet Bluiett´s Baritone Group.
In 1997, he made his debut with the Sun Ra Arkestra under Marshall Allen´s
leadership and, in 1998, was part of Ahmed Abdullah´s Sun Ra All-Star
Project that premiered at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreux-Detroit
Jazz Festival. Harding has also performed with the Roy Hargrove Big Band
and with Aretha Franklin.
Harding has released two recordings under his own leadership on CIMP,
Freeflow (with Chris Dahlgren and Jimmy Weinstein) in 2001 and Invocation
for Pepper (with Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen) in 2002. In addition to
Ebonic Tones, Harding is a member of Ahmed Abdullah´s NAM quartet
and Diaspora ensemble.
Billy Bang (b. 1947) was born in Mobile, Alabama, but moved to Harlem as an infant. Bang played the violin in junior high school but later switched to percussion as a result of his interest in Afro-Cuban rhythms. After serving in Vietnam, Bang returned to his original instrument in the early 1970s having been impressed by the violin playing of Ornette Coleman and Leroy Jenkins. He later studied with Jenkins.
During the early 1970s, Bang became an active part of the New York scene for creative music collaborating with saxophonists Sam Rivers and Frank Lowe and participating in the Loft Jazz movement. In 1977, Bang co-founded The String Trio of New York (with bassist John Lindberg and guitarist James Emery) and recorded a series of highly successful albums with the group until his departure in 1986.
Bang has also been a member of Ronald Shannon Jackson´s Decoding Society and Sonny Sharrock´s Material. Other frequent collaborators have included Ahmed Abdullah, Don Cherry, Marilyn Crispell, Kahil El´Zabar, Kip Hanrahan, William Parker, Sun Ra and James "Blood" Ulmer among others. He has also played with Bootsy Collins and the funk group Forbidden Planet.
Beginning with the Survival Ensemble in the 1970s, Bang has been leading
his own groups and also performing as a solo artist. He currently leads
his own quintet. Bang´s numerous recordings range from New York
Collage (Anima) by the Survival Ensemble (with Bilal Abdur Rahman, Henry
Warner, William Parker, Khuwana Fuller and Rashid Bakr) from 1978 and
his solo concert recording Distinction Without a Difference (Hat Hut)
from 1979 to Vietnam: The Aftermath (Justin Time) by his septet (with
Frank Lowe, Sonny Fortune, Teddy Daniel, John Hicks, Curtis Lundy, Michael
Carvin and Lawrence "Butch" Morris) from 2001. In 1992, he
recorded A Tribute to Stuff Smith (Soul Note) with Sun Ra (also John Ore
and Andrew Cyrille). In addition to Ebonic Tones, Bang performs with Ahmed
Abdullah as a member of the Diaspora ensemble.
Alex Blake (b. 1951) was born in Panama but moved with his family to the United States when he was seven years of age and grew up in Brooklyn. Blake´s first instrument was the trumpet but he soon switched to playing the bass. He was already playing professionally at the age of 12 starting with Latino jazz artists, such as Mongo Santamaria, Machito and Celia Cruz. By the age of 16, Blake was touring and recording with Sun Ra and, at the age of 17, he joined Dizzy Gillespie with whom he toured in 1968 and 1969.
Since then, Blake has played with, among others, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner, The Last Poets, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Billy Cobham, The Manhattan Transfer, Astrud Gilberto and Pharoah Sanders. Among his most long-standing relationships has been that with Randy Weston with whom Blake has performed since the early 1970s.
In recent years, Blake has also increasingly become known as a leader
of his own groups. His 1999 recording Now Is the Time (Bubble Core Records)
features an all-star group with Pharoah Sanders, John Hicks, Victor Jones
and Neil Clark.
Andrei Strobert (b. 1949) has been working as an artist,
musician and educator for more than 30 years. He has worked with numerous
universities and colleges throughout the tri-state area as a professor
and artist-in-residence teaching African-American history, rhythms, percussion,
jazz, swing and rock, including at The American Museum of Natural History.
Strobert has won many awards and scholarships and has had numerous appearances in newspapers, music concerts as well as on television and radio. He has also recorded and/or produced albums with numerous artists including Abdullah Ibrahim, Jaki Byard, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Sun Ra, Carlos Garnett, Montego Joe, James Mtume, Roy Merriweather, Roy Campbell, Cecil Bridgewater, Reggie Workman, Bill Barron, Voices Incorporated, Deidre Murray and many others. Strobert currently manages his own recording studio, Strobe Light Sound Studio, in connection with his Brooklyn home and also owns Ki-Ki Records Incorporated.