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Duke Ellington Orchestra - Take the A Train

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Remembering Rashied Ali

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Rashied Ali, Drummer with John Coltrane, Dead at 76

Throughout his career, the improvisational drums of Rashied Ali provided solid counterpoint to the thrust and flight of many jazz revolutionaries, chief among them, John Coltrane. Ali was at the heart of Trane’s later years, evident especially in the duo album, Interstellar Space. Brian Morton wrote in the April 1997 issue of Jazzwise: “If Rollins was Noah, up to his rainbow bridge, then Coltrane was certainly Moses, struggling to deliver his music from its bonds. On this model, Ali is Aaron, the embodiment of liberation within the laws, carrying his twin rods, and getting water out of his stones.”

In the early 60’s, Ali moved from Philadelphia’s local jazz scene to New York City where he quickly became central amongst avant-garde jazz musicians. In addition to his collaboration with John Coltrane, he performed and recorded with numerous improv artists including Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Paul Bley, Archie Shepp, Bill Dixon and Albert Ayler. 

After Trane’s death in 1967, Ali continued to soar, even as the jazz scene began to decline. He traveled and performed extensively in Europe, and upon returning, opened Ali’s Alley, a jazz club in Manhattan. He continued to perform and record with the best of the free-spirited jazz musicians throughout the 70’s. His passion for the avant-garde led him to collaborate with musicians, poets and actors on several large-scale multi-media performance art projects as well.

In the 80’s and 90’s Ali’s presence was intermittent, but in the later 90’s he returned to the jazz scene where he remained a focal point until his death. From the Associated Press obituary: “He was at the top of his game until his last day,” his wife said Thursday night. “He just had such integrity about his music.” 

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