©Ahmad Alaadeen

Kansas City Slick After I was discharged from the Army in 1959, I again attended The Conservatory of Music (now known as the University of Missouri-Kansas City). Saxophone was still not offered so I studied flute and theory. Later in the early 60s, I moved to New York, and performed there. I was kind of a character back then, not too stable. Sometimes things get a little fuzzy, because of the bad habits I had at that particular time; I was not always pristine and clean like I am now. I had to leave New York to clean myself up. So In 1965, I moved to Chicago and joined The Nation Of Islam, under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. Mohammed Ali was also there. We (the Shahid) toured with him, driving together around the country opening for his speaking engagements. One time, when we were in Kansas City he threw a punch at me. I caught it, and he remarked, "You’re fast!” While in Chicago, I also attended DePaul University.

When I first met Lester Bowie, he was married to this R&B singer, Fontella Bass. We were on the road and backed her up. Lester was the bandleader. In Chicago, he stayed across from the Masjid. We would sneak out and hang at his place. The Captain knew we were doing something wrong but they just couldn’t catch us. We were Kansas City Slick. Now that I look back, we should have been easy to catch; we drove a big old yellow Pontiac. Lester was working on getting the Art Ensemble together with Malachi Favors and guys like that… Joseph Jarman. The Art Ensemble was not really an influence to me because I was still into the melodic thing; it wasn't my cup of tea. I still love melody. I also played in a program led by pianist-composer, Muhal Richard Abrams. They had this organization that met on Saturdays. It was the beginning of the Association of Creative Musicians (AACM). Other members included Lester and Malachi. My long-time friend, Sonny Kenner originally formed the group Quartet Shahid that included drummer T. Fillah, pianist/vocalist Luqman Hamza and me. We performed all over the East Coast from New York to Florida and were the house band at the Salaam Restaurant on the Southside of Chicago. We were treated like royalty and even had "soldiers" guarding us. Lester would come hear us play at the Salaam Restaurant and we would hire his bass player to play with the Shahid. In 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, riots broke outside the restaurant while the Shahid was on stage. When the whole sky lit up with fire, the Captain told us to go home; it wasn't safe. Luqman drove, but we had to drive through the riots. We were scared to death. It was also at the Salaam Restaurant that The Shahid played for Jesse Jackson’s First “Operation Bread Basket”. After the death of Elijah Mohammed, his son Wallace Deen Mohammed guided the followers into the true meaning of Islam. I followed his leadership and gave up the old racist attitudes. Then in the early 70s, I lived and performed in Denver and St. Louis.