Night Lights Classic Jazz

East Meets West: Ahmed Abdul-Malik and World Jazz

Bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik helped forge a path for the fusion of jazz with world music.

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Ahmed Abdul Malik

Photo: Album cover art

The records Ahmed Abdul Malik made as a leader drew on everything from Middle Eastern music and African highlife to calypso and samba, all combined with elements of the mid-20th century New York jazz scene from which he had emerged.

Bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik played with pianists Randy Weston and Thelonious Monk in the 1950s before going on to make a handful of dates that helped forge a path for the fusion of jazz with world music. “American jazz is dull,” he told Metronome in 1958. “‘The Man I Love’ things have all been said before… now is the time to transfuse new blood–foreign scales, foreign melodic lines, the Oriental flavor.” His ensuing albums such as East Meets West, Jazz Sahara, and The Music Of Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Sounds of Africa (combined on the CD reissue Jazz Sounds of Africa) employed both ethnic musicians and hardbop greats like Johnny Griffin and Lee Morgan, opening a way that artists such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman would later follow in the 1970s.

Music Heard On This Episode

La Ibky (Don't Cry)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — East Meets West (RCA, 1960)
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La Ibky (Don't Cry)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — East Meets West (RCA, 1960)

Notes: With Lee Morgan on trumpet, Johnny Griffin and Benny Golson on tenor sax.

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album cover
Isma'a (Listen)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — Jazz Sahara (Riverside, 1958)

Notes: With Johnny Griffin on tenor sax.

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album cover
El-Lail (the Night)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — East Meets West (RCA, 1960)

Notes: With Benny Golson and Johnny Griffin on tenor sax and Lee Morgan on trumpet.

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Searchin'
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — East Meets West (RCA, 1960)

Notes: With Benny Golson on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller, and Jerome Richardson on flute.

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India
John Coltrane — Comp. Village Vanguard Recordings (Impulse, 1961)

Notes: Midpoint music bed. With Ahmed Abdul-Malik on tamboura.

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Nights on Saturn
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — Jazz Sounds of Africa (CD) (Prestige/New Jazz, 1961)

Notes: With Tommy Turrentine on trumpet.

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African Bossa Nova
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — Jazz Sounds of Africa (CD) (Prestige/New Jazz, 1962)
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Nadilsuma
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — Jazz Sounds of Africa (Prestige/New Jazz, 1962)
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El Haris (Anxious)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik — Jazz Sahara (Riverside, 1958)

Notes: With Johnny Griffin on tenor sax.

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album cover
David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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