Long before the Berlin-based DJ and producer Amir Abdullah became an esteemed music archivist, flying around the globe on the lecture circuit, discussing with scholars and audiences the importance of preserving jazz, America’s classical music, he was making mixtapes and CDss with his friend Kon just for fun.
But let’s backtrack. Growing up in Boston, raised on the teachings of the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad, Amir was instilled early on with a strong sense of Black pride from his family. Amir’s father—a jazz record collector and Black history oracle—called attention to the importance of preserving Black American music. His older brothers and sisters pushed young Amir’s ears towards the offshoots of jazz: disco, funk and those irresistible ’80s R&B records we now call “boogie.”
Run your searches people… Kon & Amir, the top flight DJ duo and their half-dozen “On Track” mixes (pulled almost exclusively from Amir’s collection and deftly mixed by Kon) spoke directly to: loop junkies, pop-locking-cardboard surfaced-street dance battles and vinyl heads simultaneously. The two encapsulated hip-hop’s Golden Era, once a culture unto its own, and its fixation on idyllic moments captured during the break, fashioned by obscure artists.
Amir’s 2017 unearthing of five two-track master tapes featuring the Charles Mingus Quintet performing live in 1973 at Detroit’s Strata Concert Gallery set the Jazz world—and every major news organization—ablaze. Released in 2018 on his 180 Proof Records along with BBE Music, Mingus: Jazz In Detroit/Strata Concert Gallery/46 Selden “parachutes listeners into a one-nighter in 1973” declared NPR upon its release. “But beyond jazz verité, the performances—sometimes spectacular, sometimes ordinary—open a window on a compelling and influential chapter of Detroit jazz history that remains unknown to most of the wider jazz world.” This was the historical document of Black American music Amir’s father prepped him for at such a young age.
The Jupiter Effect, a jazz-fusion communiqué by The Larry Rose Band, released in April, is yet again another “little known” find by DJ Amir. “I chose the Larry Rose Band album because it was something special that needed to be heard by more than just a nerdy record collector. There’s such a range of music displayed on the album,” Amir said via email. “Plus, I knew certain collectors like Gilles (Peterson) were looking for this record.”
Amir made time to speak to me in greater detail:
48 Hills Greetings Amir. Last time we chatted you were making the rounds on behalf of that glorious Charles Mingus release. Could you give us a brief summation of what the feedback on that was, and what you’ve been up to since?
DJ AMIR ABDULLAH So the feedback on the Mingus project has varied but for the most part, it’s been super-positive. I say varied because there have been a few writers/people who have questioned why this project was and is important. To that, I have said, this recording is a historical document of Black American music that should be treasured and valued. Secondly, some have questioned the sound quality of the recording. Specifically, asking why did I leave in the talking in the background or some of the noise distortion. Again, I say to this, I wanted the listener to feel as if they were at the Strata Concert Gallery in 1973 that night. I wanted them to experience the atmosphere and energy of the room and performance.
Many live recordings are “cleaned up” too much. Therefore, they lose a lot of the essence of the recording. Since the release of the Mingus live recording I have released two other Strata Records, Sphere’s Inside Ourselves and The Contemporary Jazz Quintet’s The Black Hole to great feedback. I also have transferred some of the multis for the catalog, and I am reaching out to producers like Ge-ology, Theo Parrish, and others for remixes. I’m also working on reissuing the Maulawi self-titled album and a Mixed Bag live recording. Lastly, I started a lecture series “My Discovery of The Lost Charles Mingus Live Recording” that I was to debut on March 21 in London, but due to COVID it was canceled.
48H How did you come about The Larry Rose Band project, because it seems to be different from your other releases. Man. It’s a beautiful time capsule. This blues-oriented band that essentially played everything, that never made it, but their spirit on The Jupiter Effect goes beyond endearing.
DJ AMIR I came across the Larry Rose Band album when I was in Groningen, Netherlands, three years ago. After my DJ gig there, a record shop owner named Michel Klinkhamer offered to open his shop just for me that Sunday. Once in the shop, he asked what type of records I was looking for, and I said some spiritual jazz would be nice. He proceeded to pull out the Larry Rose album along with a Bryan Pope album. I immediately was like “I will definitely take the Larry Rose!” I did some research on the record and didn’t find that much. I knew I wanted to reissue this album.
48H Last thing and I appreciate your taking the time, how do you view your experiences back in the day when you were making mixtapes with Kon. Could you envision at that time being where you are at in your professional career today?
DJ AMIR When I was making the On Track mixtapes and CDs with Kon, I never had ANY idea that what we were doing would lead to this. To be quite honest, after the first On track Volume1, I wanted to give up doing them because they were not well received at all. In the beginning, we were doing them just for fun and for ourselves but as time went on we started doing them to let other collectors know what time it is. Secondly, I never thought that I would meet people from Europe to Russia to Japan that were huge fans of what we did.
The Jupiter Effect is available now via BBE Music.