Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Sun Ra - 2015 - Planets Of Life Or Death Amiens '73

Sun Ra
Planets Of Life Or Death Amiens '73 

01. Enlightenment 02:24
02. Love In Outer Space 17:07
03. Lights On A Satellite 03:52
04. Discipline 27-II / What Planet Is This 23:46

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Piccolo Flute, Percussion – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Danny Ray Thompson
Bass – Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet, Flute, Percussion – Eloe Omoe
Bassoon, Flute, Percussion – James Jacson
Cello, Viola, Percussion – Alzo Wright
Drums – Tommy Hunter
Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Mini-Moog], Vocals – Sun Ra
French Horn – Brother Ahh
Percussion – Odun Shahib
Percussion, Balafon, Other [Dance] – Roger Aralamon Hazoumé
Percussion, Other [Dance] – Math Samba
Tenor Saxophone, Drums, Vocals – John Gilmore
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Akh Tal Ebah, Kwame Hadi
Vocals, Other [Dance] – June Tyson, Ruth Wright
Voice [Space Ethnic Voices] – Cheryl Banks, Judith Holton

Recorded at Maison de la Culture, Amiens, France, 21st October 1973.

A previously unreleased Sun Ra concert from Amiens, France in 1973. At times intense, ritualistic and visceral, the recording features the glistening ‘Lights On A Satellite’ featuring the spiritual tenor sax of John Gilmore and a rare instrumental version of ‘Love In Outer Space’

Pretend you know nothing about Sun Ra. Imagine that all you know about him is, well, a colourful pile of nothing. You casually attend a Record Store Day in your city and pick up the only copy (amongst the very few sold exclusively on that day) of this vinyl they have. You’re intrigued by the cover, the name, your very inexperience, and while you leave the premises with yet another Radiohead album under your arms, you forget about the bucks and quid that other album cost you until you sit on your favourite armchair in the comfort of your mortgaged house. Your partner, whose affection for you is somehow stronger than the decades-long relationship you have chosen to entertain with your favourite financial institution, is away, so you’re left in the house to fend for yourself. Well, then what? What happens once Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Research Arkestra fill every corner of the room with waves of afrofuturism? How ready were you for the magic that is -- by now -- bursting at the seams right when “Love in Outer Space” flourishes, shines and withers in a time that is more or less equivalent to In Rainbows’ Side A.

You see, this is absolute music; an abstraction of the abstraction and nothing else. There is no explanation, no discipline and we are left fewer and fewer coordinates. Therefore plenty of them! One might hear Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma (“Love in Outer Space”), Mulatu Astatke’s Ethio-jazz, Magma, Ornette Coleman, John Cage and even some Radiohead. Another will appreciate the simplicity of cacophony in all its splendour, the contrast between harmonies (the vocals on “Enlightenment”), the beauty of percussion and the charm of a Sunday afternoon in Amiens, France in 1973.

Same as you, who knows if the audience was expecting this, or if someone was disappointed to see that the canons of jazz were being torn to pieces right before their eyes. Maybe not, I’d like to think. But this accurate recording (captured right off the mixer) depicts an ensemble at its zenith and an artist who was already somewhere else far, far away. John Gilmore’s sax sinuously progresses through “Lights On A Satellite”, but it is with the instrumental “Love In Outer Space” that the magnitude of Sun Ra’s experimentalism intensifies, ripping apart the structure, bouncing through the obsessiveness of the percussive elements and the illogical cleverness of a legendary free spirit.

This album follows 2014 collection put together by Arkestra’s Marshall Allen (In The Orbit Of Ra), and is the joint effort of two of the most recognisable labels of the underground, Strut and Art Yard, and is enriched with rare images from that very tour taken by Jan Persson.

Whatever your reaction, Planets of Life or Death: Amiens '73 is a genuine, unaltered picture that is definitely worth a listen, both if you already know what to expect or if this is your sonic baptism with Sun Ra’s music. Whatever your starting point, this record will not go unnoticed. It embodies cosmic jazz as seen by a visionary and the end result is a beautifully confused, layered little gem.

Sun Ra - 1993 - Concert for the Comet Kohoutek

Sun Ra
Concert for the Comet Kohoutek

01. Kohoutek Intro 1:10
02. Astro Black 1:50
03. Variations Of Kohoutek Themes 5:12
04. Journey Through The Outer Darkness 9:25
05. Enlightenment 2:02
06. Unknown Kohoutek 7:16
07. Discipline 12:39
08. Outer Space E.M. (Emergency) 7:48
09. Space Is The Place 7:56

Live at Town Hall, New York City, December 22 1973. 

Composer, keyboardist and bandleader Sun Ra's intimate connection with the cosmos is well documented, but it was rare that Ra was given cause for real celestial celebration. That opportunity did come in 1973 however, when Ra and his orchestra played a show in celebration of Kohoutek, a comet whose sighting was billed as the "Comet of the Century." Though the comet was ultimately a visual disappointment, the concert was an aural success; the Arkestra is in a loose and comfortable realm on Concert for the Comet Kohoutek, whose release only came in the early '90s before being reissued.
The crowd's enthusiasm toward Ra is palpable even before he gets on stage—the M.C. is amicably disposed of in favor of the Arkestra—and it is with this energy that Ra's band (the personnel of which is unfortunately unlisted) jumps into the funky vocal workout of "Astro Black." Likely it is Space is the Place's (Blue Thumb, 1973) June Tyson leading the proceedings here as she guides the chaotic horn lines of the intro into a mellow groove whose rhythmically textural mysticism paves the way for the fifteen minute free workout of "Discipline 27 (Part 1)." Starting out in Ra's typical big band mode, with rich arrangements and a distinctly Ellingtonian sense of harmony, the work soon dissolves under crushing electronic synthesizer tones and horn blasts that build to become some of the most overtly chaotic and outright weird material that Ra would put to tape before erupting in a wash of kinetic celebration.
"Enlightenment" provides respite with another vocal number before the celebratory poly-rhythmic jaunt, "Love in Outer Space," if slightly laboriously, grooves along. The aptly titled "Kohoutek" opens with a Ra keyboard improvisation, again featuring his markedly fried synthesizer sounds. Still, the piece maintains a relative sense of stability with consistent backing work and a tight-knit big band opening. It's length soon provides the means to loosen as well. However, before it's finished, the piece dissolves into crumbling synth textures and harmonic dissonance that still manages to maintain its sense of direction.
Again, Ra organizes the show's pacing by inserting another lyrical number, "Discipline 27 (Part 2)," to settle the groove. The crowd's enthusiastic game of call and response is surely aided by the kazoos they were given at the start of the show. The closing rendition of "Space is the Place" is a heavy affair, with thick low end synthesizer harmony lines that hearken in Tyson's vocals and the rest of the band's taught interaction. It is a fitting end to a night that saw Ra and his Arkestra doing what it does best—if a little sloppily at times—for a cause that could not be better situated for their unique mode of performance.

Released in the early '90s, Concert for the Comet Kohoutek captures a typically inspired night by Sun Ra & the Intergalactic Space Research Arkestra. Recorded in late 1973, on this date the Arkestra is guided by a musical theme composed around the idea of the Comet Kohoutek, which was passing close to Earth at the time. Typically, the release vaults between cosmic vocal songs that speak of Truth and other such brashly capitalized affairs (such as "Astro Black"), almost straight-ahead big-band jazz arrangements ("Variations of Kohoutek Themes"), and frighteningly evil free explorations ("Journey Through the Outer Darkness"). Much of the Arkestra's appeal lies in its ability to navigate gracefully through these moods. Unfortunately, the balance is too even here, and the band doesn't commit to any of the ideas. There isn't enough free music to let the listener become lost, the few Sun Ra compositions (in the traditional sense) that appear are too undeveloped and sloppy to truly appreciate, and the cosmic platitudes always worked better in their purely instrumental forms. An enjoyable listen, but not an important date.

Sun Ra - 2006 - What Planet is This

Sun Ra
What Planet is This

01. Untitled Improvisation (Ra) (5:30)
02. Astro Black (Ra) (3:04)
03. Discipline 27 (Ra) (7:29)
04. Untitled Improvisation (Ra) (28:18)
05. Space is the Place (Ra) (10:27)
06. Enlightenment (Ra - Dotson) (3:39)
07. Love in Outer Space (Ra) (10:29)
08. The Shadow World (Ra) (20:42)
09. Watusa, Egyptian March (Ra) (8:54)
10. Discipline 27-II (incl. What Planet is This? / The Universe Sent me to Converse with You / My Brother the Sun (Ra) (17:39)
11. Line-up & Recording Date:

Recorded live in New York, July 6, 1973

Sun Ra (piano, mini-moog, organ, declamation)
John Gilmore (tenor sax, percussion, voice)
Marshall Allen (alto sax, oboe, flute, percussion, cowbell, voice)
Danny Davis (alto sax, flute, percussion, voice)
Larry Northington (alto sax, percussion, voice)
Eloe Omoe (bass clarinet, bassoon, percussion, voice)
Danny Ray Thompson (baritone sax, flute, percussion, voice)
Pat Laurdine Patrick (baritone sax, oboe, voice)
James Jacson (bassoon, flute, percussion, voice)
Akh Tal Ebah (trumpet, fluegelhorn, megaphone, percussion, voice)
Kwame Hadi (trumpet, percussion, voice)
Dick Griffin (trombone, percussion, voice)
Charles Stephens (trombone, percussion, voice)
Hakim Jami (tuba, percussion)
Alzo Wright (cello, percussion)
Ronnie Boykins (bass)
Lex Humphries (drums)
Aye Aton (drums)
Atakatune (congas, tympani)
Odun (congas)
Harry Richards (percussion)
June Tyson (voice, declamation, percussion, dance)
Judith Holton (voice, dance)
Ruth Wright (voice, dance)
Cheryl Banks (voice, dance)

It is appropriate that this double album is being released by Leo Records' Golden Years imprint. Recorded in New York in July, 1973, it features as large an Arkestra as any that Sun Ra put together and includes all of his key collaborators. What Planet Is This? comes from the crucial period when Sun Ra had progressed from cult status to wider recognition, a process aided by a strange alliance with the MC5. But unlike the '50s and '60s (which are well-documented, particularly by the reissue programme on Evidence) or the late '80s and early '90s (covered well, not least by Leo), this period is not well-served by current releases. All of that makes this a welcome issue.
The sound quality is generally good (not always true of Leo's past Sun Ra releases), although some of the balance is rather eccentric; for instance, on "Space Is The Place, the vocals are far forward and the band sounds very distant. In fact, given the instrumentation (thirteen reeds and brass!) the band doesn't sound nearly as powerful as it could or should.

By contrast, the ten-minute version of "Love in Outer Space really captures the majestic power of the band in full flight, driven along by Ra's surging organ, wild, free-blowing horns and massed percussion that creates a massive polyrhythmic groove that is sure to move anyone with a pulse. Just as impressive is a twenty-minute version of "The Shadow World that features a barnstorming big band (again, with percussion aplenty) interspersed with more incredible Ra organ and free-blown improvisations on saxophones and tuba, the latter providing a rich, fruity bass line.

Special mention must go to vocalist June Tyson, whose vocals are pure-toned and powerfully soulful throughout. Her call-and-response "declamations (an appropriate term; "vocals doesn't do them justice) with Ra himself on the title track turn it into a space-age revivalist meeting. Extraordinary.

Another valuable piece in the ever-evolving Sun Ra jigsaw.

Sun Ra - 2014 - Sign Of The Myth

Sun Ra
Sign Of The Myth 

01. Sign Of The Myth 16:12
02. The Eye Of Horus 6:54
03. Hidden Cosmic Treasures 10:32
04. The Truth Of Maat 12:51

Alto Saxophone – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Oboe – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Danny Ray Thompson
Bass – Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet, Percussion – Eloe Omoe
Congas – Atakatune
Drum [Ancient Egyptian Infinity Drum] – James Jackson*
Drums – Clifford Jarvis
Keyboards – Sun Ra
Mellophone, Percussion – Akh Tal Ebah
Tenor Saxophone – John Gilmore
Trumpet, Percussion – Kwame Hadi

Edition of 1,050 copies.

Recorded 8 March 1973 at Variety Recording Studios, NYC.

In 1973, Sun Ra inked a high-profile deal with ABC / Impulse, bringing his recorded work to the widest audience he’d had to date. A slew of Saturn back catalog titles and two newly-recorded albums (Astro Black, Pathways To Unknown Worlds) were issued before ABC cancelled the contract, dumped the records into the cut-out bins, and left the unreleased albums to languish. Now, over four decades later, Roaratorio is proud to offer one of the lost Impulse recordings for the first time. Sign Of The Myth hails from the same studio session as Pathways, and shares its emphasis on guided improvisations. With a constantly shifting palette of Moog textures, Ra tosses off a dazzling array of ideas throughout, supported by the usual Arkestra stalwarts; in particular, bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Clifford Jarvis are in shining form here, giving shape and solidity to these pieces. Sign Of The Myth is a welcome augmentation to an especially fertile period from Sun Ra’s time on Earth.

Sign of the Myth originates from the Pathways To Unknown Worlds sessions and like In the Orbit of Ra, maybe the best of all 2014 releases, it also captures the brilliant and underestimated bass work of Ronnie Boykins – while Ra concentrates on spooky, spacey and psychedelic synthesizer sounds, which are like an electric carpet contrasting the wave of percussion and the free jazz reeds lines of the reed section consisting here of Eloe Omoe, Danny Ray Thompson, Kwame Hadi, Akh Tal Ebah, Marshall Allen, Danny Davis, and John Gilmore.  With a constantly shifting array of Moog horror movie sounds, Ra structures the pieces, for example the title track, which can keep up with the best Arkestra tracks. Ra, Boykins and the percussion section start off before the saxes fall in trying to take control of the improvisation but in the end it is Boykins’s walking bass and Ra’s synth lines which prevail and even give an outlook to where the Arkestra was heading with Disco 3000 only five years later.

Sun Ra - 2000 - Cymbals / Symbols Sessions

Sun Ra
Cymbals / Symbols Sessions

01. The World of the Invisible 06:51
02. Thoughts Under a Dark Blue Light 16:32
03. The Order of the Pharaonic Jesters 07:24
04. The Mystery of Two 07:34
05. Land of the Day Star 03:56

06. The Universe is Calling 04:10
07. Space Landing 07:15
08. Of Drastic Measures 04:50
09. Of Otherness 07:31
10. Myth Evidential 13:20
11. Destination of the Known Unknown 09:36

Recorded at Variety Studios, New York, 1973

LP1 is the first legitimate release of Cymbals on vinyl, LP2 contains some previously unreleased material.

Sun Ra: organ, Minimoog, Rocksichord
Akh Tal Ebah: trumpet
Danny Davis: alto sax
John Gilmore: tenor sax
Eloe Omoe: bass clarinet
Ronnie Boykins: bass
Harry Richards: drums
Derek Morris: conga

In early 1973, thanks to the intrepid persuasion of jazz producer Ed Michel, Sun Ra signed a licensing agreement with the prestigious jazz imprint Impulse (then part of ABC/Paramount Records) to reissue catalog titles from Ra's proprietary Saturn label, as well as some new Arkestra recordings. Michel had produced Ra's most commercially successful album, Space is the Place, in 1972 for Blue Thumb Records, and he figured Ra was finally primed for a wider Earthly audience. The Impulse deal struck with Ra and manager Alton Abraham specified a cap of 50 albums — ten annually for five years — although all masters were subject to approval by Impulse and theoretically less than 50 could be issued.

William Ruhlmann at AllMusic notes, "This was Ra's first association with something like a major record company, and though it resulted in ten actual releases, it didn't last long; another 12 planned releases were cancelled." Eight (egregiously remixed and/or remastered) existing Saturn titles were repackaged; on other planets, extraterrestrial jazz scholars refer to the Impulse period as "Ra's Quadraphonic Years."

Besides the reissues, two newly recorded albums were released—Astro Black and Pathways to Unknown Worlds. Another pair, Cymbals and Crystal Spears, recorded in 1973, were assigned catalog numbers before being shelved. They must have been rejected quickly, because that very year three Cymbals tracks were incongruously grouped with some of Ra's earliest 1940s & '50s recordings on a Saturn LP entitled Deep Purple.

The Cymbals sessions took place at one of Ra's most favored recording venues, Variety Studios, in New York. Other than the three tracks on Deep Purple, the Cymbals (a.k.a. Symbols) sessions were unissued during Sun Ra's lifetime. Five tracks from these sessions (tracks 1 thru 5 on this 11-track complete edition) were posthumously issued on a 2-CD set by Evidence in 2000 under the title The Great Lost Sun Ra Albums (which included Crystal Spears). The Evidence CDs had to rely on substandard source tapes, which at the time were the only tapes available.

This 2018 double album on Modern Harmonic used session master tapes from Michael D. Anderson's Sun Ra Music Archive, and represents the complete Cymbals/Symbols sessions.

Cymbals constitutes an intimate gathering by Arkestra standards. Although eight musicians were involved, nothing larger than a sextet and often only a quartet plays on any one track. Ra's illustrious tenor saxophonist John Gilmore only performs on one title (“Thoughts Under A Dark Blue Light”), and Danny Davis plays alto on another ("Land of the Day Star"). Cymbals is notable for being one of the few ensemble albums in Sun Ra's vast catalog that does not feature Arkestra mainstay Marshall Allen.

As Bro. Cleve writes in the liner notes to the LP and CD editions of the Cymbals/Symbols packages, "The ABC/Impulse deal imploded, due to disappointing sales. The cut-out albums were dumped into bargain bins. Curiosity seekers heard Sun Ra, perhaps for the first time, for a dollar a disc. Sadly, the band made no money from sales of these LP’s. Ra returned to Saturn … Records, that is."

A lost slice of work from Sun Ra's early 70s years on Impulse Records – one of the few new recordings created for his association with that label (most of the titles were reissues of earlier Saturn albums) – but one that was never issued at the time! Cymbals saw some release later, during the 90s – but this package really expands on that album by adding in a whole extra set of recordings from what appear to be the same sessions – and which really flesh out the vibe of the performance! The core group is a sextet – with Ra at the helm on some of his cool electric keyboards – including minimoog, rocksichord, and Gibson Kalamazoo – with acoustic work from Eloe Omoe on bass clarinet, Tal Ebah on trumpet, Ronny Boykins on bass, Harry Ar on drums, and Derek Morris on congas. Much of the core music explores a tension between Ra's cosmic keys and the more earthy sound of the acoustic instruments – but the added material here opens up some nicely different moods, and makes the whole thing explode with deep colors.

Sun Ra - 2000 - Crystal Spear

Sun Ra
Crystal Spear

01. Crystal Spears 06:06
02. The Eternal Sphynx 04:47
03. The Embassy of the Living God 10:22
04. Sunrise in the Western Sky 20:21

Recorded at Variety Studios, NYC 1973. Planned as Impulse! ASD 9297 Sun Ra - Crystal Spears (not released)

Sun Ra: Rocksichord, marimba, Minimoog, electronic vibraphone, gong
John Gilmore: tenor sax
Danny Ray Thompson: baritone sax
Danny Davis: alto sax, flute, percussion
Marshall Allen: flute, piccolo flute, oboe
Kwame Hadi: trumpet, percussion
Eloe Omoe: bass clarinet
Clifford Jarvis: drums
Atakatune: percussion
Odun: percussion

Jagged spears of crystal thrust into the brain (or is it the heart?) elicit an agonizing howl, a cry, and a scream. Thus opens Sun Ra’s 1973 adventure-mystery Crystal Spears. After a few minutes of a cathartic brawl between Minimoog and Yamaha combo organ, percussionists Atakatune and Odun enter while drummer Clifford Jarvis provides tonal textures, not rhythm, from the kit. Marshall Allen saunters in with a rather plaintive oboe, under which Ra later overdubbed (a rarity on an Arkestra recording!) a marimba. But this momentary gentleness is soon disrupted by roaring electronic keyboards over waves of rollicking marimba devilishly chattering below the fray.

Crystal Spears, intended for release in 1975 by ABC/Impulse! and assigned catalog # AS-9297, was ultimately rejected by the label. Ra and business manager Alton Abraham retained the rights, rechristened the album Crystal Clear and assigned Saturn Records catalog # 562—but never got around to issuing it. The first three tracks on this album were mastered from that tape, a 1/4-inch four-track (15 IPS) brand favored by home recording enthusiasts—and generally disfavored by pro engineers. The sessions took place at Variety Recording Studio in New York on February 3, 1973, a month before the Ark returned on March 8 to record another Impulse-rejected album, Cymbals/Symbols (also available in a remastered edition from Modern Harmonic).

Why was Crystal Spears rejected? A year or two after Ra’s signing, reigning ABC management was swept out and new execs rolled in. It’s quite probable that the new execs didn’t comprehend what was happening on these recordings. For the uninitiated, this was not jazz as they knew it, but unbridled cacophony. But is it? Sun Ra always had a method to his madness—and a madness to his method.

Most of the Ra projects on Impulse! were reissues of Saturn-label releases which had been poorly distributed (and pressed in limited quantities). In 1972-73, Ra reportedly produced eight newly recorded projects for Impulse!—two were released at the time, and five have been issued since 2000. Ra’s “guided improvisations” often showcased his extraterrestrial takes on the blues as well as “chamber jazz,” a classical/jazz hybrid popularized by 1950’s Hollywood composers such as Leith Stevens, Fred Katz, and Robert Markowitz for crime jazz. It’s a good bet that Ra was as fascinated by these cinematic sounds as he was with the Exotica of Les Baxter. (Fans of the latter should explore Modern Harmonic's double album of Sun Ra Exotica.)

The core of the Arkestra played together daily, enduring endless hours in rehearsal and more onstage; by 1973, some had played with Ra for over 15 years. This forged a musical telepathy that helped this music coalesce. Since the mid-1960’s, their group improvisations deployed deep layers that blossomed over repeated listening.

Track two, “The Eternal Sphynx,” is probably the most commercial sounding work. Stylistically related to the “Discipline” series of compositions Ra crafted in the early 1970’s, the ensemble plays a repetitive two-bar vamp, in which soloists Danny Davis (alto) and John Gilmore (tenor) and Ra (who slinks into “Space Is The Place”) commune. The band returns to the motif before building up to a Space Chord finale, upon which Ra overlays a minor/major-7th chord, that irrefutable “sound of intrigue” heard from Peter Gunn to 007.

Cinematic suspense permeates “The Embassy of the Living God,” who apparently resides in a haunted mansion. There’s an eerie majesty to Ra’s chordal voicings. Eloe Omoe’s bass clarinet and Marshall Allen’s oboe add an otherworldliness with their howlings, until the entire group retreats into the shadows as Gilmore’s hellacious wails materialize. Ra’s starburst organ runs and (probably) Kwame Hadi’s trumpet herald the propulsive finish of the track, which ends sharply and conclusively.

“Sunrise In The Western Sky” opens with various gongs, some overdubbed, announcing the rising of the sun in the east. This is a more languid composition, reflecting its title. By its denouement, the sun is out in full force, its fury scorching the planet. The drums soon abate, their work for the day done. But will the need for sunset bring them back to evoke the gods again? In Sun Ra’s aural cinematheque, one has to await the sequel that may never arrive to learn the answers one may never know.

– Brother Cleve

Recorded in ’73 and rejected by tin-eared major label execs in ’75, Crystal Spears (or “Crystal Clear” as it appears on the tape box) subsumes a cathartic brawl between Minimoog and Yamaha combo organ, with percussionists providing tonal textures, and plaintive oboe colliding with roaring electronic keyboards over waves of rollicking marimba, devilishly chattering below the fray. Crystal Spears is Ra’s once lost aural cinematheque! Includes a quad-ra-color Sun Ra poster!
Crystal Spears, intended for release in 1975 by ABC/Impulse! and assigned catalog # AS-9297, was ultimately rejected by the label. Ra and business manager Alton Abraham retained the rights, rechristened the album Crystal Clear and assigned Saturn Records catalog # 562—but they never got around to issuing it. The first three tracks on this album were mastered from that tape, a 1/4-inch four-track (15 ips) brand favored by home recording enthusiasts—and generally disfavored by pro engineers. The sessions took place at Variety Recording Studio in New York on February 3, 1973, a month before the Ark returned on March 8 to record Cymbals, as well as tracks issued decades later under the title Sign Of The Myth (and perhaps even Pathways To Unknown Worlds).

Why was Crystal Spears rejected? A year or two after Ra’s signing, reigning ABC management was swept out and new execs rolled in. It’s quite probable that the new execs didn’t comprehend what was happening on these recordings. For the uninitiated, this was not jazz as they knew it, but unbridled cacophony. But is it? Sun Ra always had a method to his madness—and a madness to his method.

Sun Ra - 1973 - Friendly Love

Sun Ra
Friendly Love

01. Friendly Love I
02. Friendly Love II
03. Friendly Love III
04. Friendly Love IV

Sun Ra- org, mini-moog;
Akh Tal Eba- fgh, mellophone
Kwame Hadi- tp, cga
Marshal Allen- ob
Danny Davis- as
John Gilmore- ts
Eloe Omoe- ct, bct
Danny Ray Thompson- bs
Neptunian libflecto; Atakatune- cga
Harry Richards- d.

Recorded 1973. Offered to Impulse Record but rejected

Sun Ra's brief involvement with the Impulse! jazz imprint was hastily terminated in early 1975. Subsequent to his dismissal, several projects that had never been issued were consequently returned to the artist. Whereas the other three rejected master tapes had (at the very least) working names, there are few specifics about Friendly Love's exact place in Ra's tousled discography. Some jazz scholars insist the catalog number of Saturn Records LP 564 had been designated, but attempts to locate a copy or even retrace a paper trail have been fruitless. However, there are a few things that can be presumed accurate about the origins of the actual recordings. The personnel indicates that the four extemporaneous free jazz pieces that were to be included on the long-player were documented circa 1973, although the exact location remains a subject of debate. In his wonderfully insightful liner essay in the compact disc reissue of Friendly Love -- which was piggybacked with Pathways to Unknown Worlds (1975) -- Robert L. Campbell goes behind the music, sourcing these performances as having been discovered among the materials "sent back to Sun Ra's business partner, Alton Abraham in Chicago, where [they were] stored in a box...." That is until 2000, when the indie Evidence label integrated this music as part of their ongoing effort to restore as much of Sun Ra's legacy as possible. The four sequentially titled tracks are much in keeping with the vast majority of the sounds coming from the various early- to mid-'70s incarnations of Ra's Arkestra(s). That is to say, each is independent and wholly improvised by the perpetually alternating cast of musicians, and there are obvious contributions throughout from several longtime Arkestra members. The absolute conviction and unmistakable presence of Marshall Allen is marked by his strident tenor sax runs and interjections, while Danny Thompson can be heard manipulating the somewhat baffling bassoon-derived apparatus that Ra dubbed the "Neptunian libflecto." Even more peculiar is the "space-dimension" mellophone, which is a bastardization of the traditional instrument with a retrofitted contrabassoon reed inserted into the mouthpiece. This assuredly accounts for the weightier and slightly muffled timbre. Akh Tal Ebah weaves alternately melodic and atonal interjections around Ra's sinuous, and at times understated, changes. While this is definitely not the place for the novice listener, seasoned enthusiasts will find the Arkestra interaction vacillating between mildly amusing to nothing short of spellbinding.

Sun Ra - 1975 - Pathways To the Unknown Worlds

Sun Ra
Pathways to Unknown Worlds

01. Pathways To Unknown Worlds 12:12
02. Extension Out 7:31
03. Cosmo-Media 6:58

Alto Saxophone – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Danny Thompson
Bass – Bill Davis, Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet – Leroy Taylor
Congas – Eugene Brennan, Russell Branch, Stanley Morgan
Drums – Clifford Jarvis
Keyboards – Sun Ra
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Akh Tal Ebah, Lamont McClamb

Recorded at El Saturn Recording Studios, Chicago, Ill, 1973.

The civilizations of the past have been used as the foundation of the civilization of today. Because of this, the world keeps looking towards the past for guidance. Too many people are following the past. In this new space age, this is dangerous. The past is dead and those who are following the past are doomed to die and be like the past. It is no accident that those who die are said to have passed since those who have passed are "past". - Sun Ra -

Pathways to Unknown Worlds was originally issued on LP in 1975 as part of Sun Ra's ill-fated and short-lived ABC/Impulse! Records partnership. ABC offered an ambitious deal that promised dozens of remastered editions of Sun Ra's Saturn back catalog along with a slew of new titles. The launch fizzled shortly after liftoff, but not before introducing two vital albums to the Ra catalog: Astro Black and Pathways. (Astro Black was reissued in all formats by Modern Harmonic in 2018.)

Ra’s original Pathways liner notes expressed his disdain for the past and his vision of the future. But the future here rendered by Ra seems more dystopian than utopian. Imagine this album as an aural Science Fiction novel, analogous to the contemporaneous writings of Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Samuel R. Delany, and others who dwelled in unknown worlds where confusion and chaos often reign. A cybernetical soundscape for time travel through an inscrutable cosmos.

Sun Ra - 1999 - Outer Space Employment

Sun Ra
Outer Space Employment 

01 Discipline 99 (13:49)
02 Love In Outer Space (4:58)
03 At First There Was Nothing/The Universe Has More To Offer You/Wake Up Angels/Outer Space.  (20:14)

Marshall Allen : Flute, Percussion, Sax (Alto)
Akh Tal Ebah : Mellophonium, Trumpet, Vocals
John Gilmore : Percussion, Sax (Tenor)
Kwame Hadi : Trumpet
Judith Holton : Vocals
James Jacson : Bassoon, Drums, Vocals
Clifford Jarvis : Drums
Stanley Morgan : Conga
Eloe Omoe : Clarinet (Bass)
Sun Ra : Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Vocals
Danny Thompson : Flute, Libflecto, Percussion, Sax (Baritone)
June Tyson : Vocals
Dale Williams : Guitar (Electric)

Recorded in concert at Otis Spann Memorial Field, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sunday, September 9, 1973.
These recordings were produced for the Rainbow Multi-Media Corporation and recorded direct to two-track by the Butterfly Mobile Recording Service.

Recorded on September 9, 1973 at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, this is a fair-fidelity live document; the sound is listenable, but not exceptional. Of the three tracks, "Discipline 99" and "Love in Outer Space" are by far the more cacophonous, with Sun Ra's spooky farfisa organ and mini-moog being by far the most interesting elements in the inscrutable brew. The 20-minute medley "At First There Was Nothing/The Universe Has More to Offer You/Wake Up Angels/Outer Space Employment Agency" -- yes, that's the full title -- is more ingratiating. Anchored on a lilting swing groove, much of it is devoted to the inimitable, and uplifting if not purely sensical, cosmic rap-philosophizing of the Arkestra, joined by vocalist June Tyson. If this were the only aural evidence of the Arkestra in this era, you could still get a sense of their more enduring qualities. But there are better-sounding albums of this phase of their development; this should be investigated by those hungry to hear Sun Ra in quantity.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sun Ra - 1973 - Live in Paris at the Gibus

Sun Ra
Live in Paris at the Gibus

01. Spontaneous Simplicity 4:04
02. Lights on a Satellite 5:31
03. Ombre Monde #2 (Shadow World) 12:17
04. King Porter Stomp 2:53
05. Salutations from the Universe 14:55
06. Calling Planet Earth 1:28

Alto Clarinet – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone – Danny Davis, Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Danny Thompson
Bass – Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet – Elo Omoe
Bassoon – James Jackson
Cello, Viola – Alzo Wright
Congas – Odun, Shahib
Drums – Alzo Wright, John Gilmore, Thomas Hunter
Flugelhorn – Akh Tal Ebah, Kwame Hadi
Flute – Danny Davis, Danny Thompson, Elo Omoe, James Jackson
Keyboards [Electronic Keyboard Space Instruments], Synthesizer [Moog], Voice – Sun Ra
Other [Dancer] – Aralamon Hazoume
Other [Fire Eater] – Math Samba
Percussion – James Jackson, Math Samba, Odun, Aralamon Hazoume, Shahib
Piccolo Flute, Oboe – Marshall Allen
Tenor Saxophone – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Akh Tal Ebah, Kwame Hadi
Vibraphone [Balafon] – Aralamon Hazoume
Vocals [Space Ethnic Voices] – Cheryl Banks
Voice [Space Ethnic Voices] – Judith Holton, June Tyson, Ruth Wright

Live at The Gibus, Paris, October 1973.

Sun Ra (organ/electric vibraphone/space instruments/synthesizer/vocals) and his Intergalactic Space Research Arkestra are captured live in October of 1973 on this essential disc. Not only are the sides uniformly inspired, but the track list bears a few interesting diversions, including seminal examples of Ra as both a performer and unequaled arranger. The mid-tempo dreamy and languid opener, "Spontaneous Simplicity," evolves around Ra's sublime organ and electric vibe runs. He places those against an unforced and otherwise limber wash of hand percussion as well as the understated yet solid pulse of Ronnie Boykins' bass. Ra's emphatic electric organ inflections herald the introduction to what is arguably the most haunting and poignant reading of "Lights on a Satellite" readily available. The flute section -- featuring Marshall Allen (alto sax/oboe/flute/piccolo), Danny Davis (alto sax/flute/alto clarinet), Danny Ray Thompson (baritone sax/flute), James Jacson (bassoon/flute/percussion), and Eloe Omoe (bass clarinet/flute) -- reel an edgy and trance-inducing melody into their sinuous lines. The entire affair simmers just below some glistens from Ra and a sax solo by John Gilmore (tenor sax/percussion). "Ombre Monde" (aka "Shadow World") dates back to the mid-'60s and allows Allen a platform for an extended lead that is sonically spurred on by Ra's motivated electric piano. Akh Tal Ebah's trumpet aggressions also make this version stand out. The truly phenomenal cover of Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp" is a progressive score that builds on work done by Fletcher Henderson's definitive version. The Arkestra's compact presentation is stunning and Ra's complex score makes this flawless rendering all the more improbable. The bandleader offers up a vocal cosmic greeting on "Salutations From the Universe" which is swirled in an onslaught from the full ensemble. Ra's forceful keyboards are countered by some sharp and incisive contributions from the Arkestra. This segues into the benedictory "Calling Planet Earth" chant that is free jazz madness at its most effective. June Tyson's (vocals) voice can be picked out among the participants before Ra's brief solo conclusion. Although initially only pressed as a hard-to-find French import, Live in Paris at the Gibus was issued on CD in 2003 and is a highly recommended title for inclined parties.

Sun Ra - 1973 - Discipline 27-II

Sun Ra
Discipline 27-II

01. Pan Afro 07:52
02. Discipline 8 07:49
03. Neptune 05:42
04. Discipline 27-II Parts 1-4 24:06

Recorded at Streeterville Studios, Chicago, October 19–20, 1972

Sun Ra: piano, space organ [Farfisa], Minimoog, Rocksichord, vocal dramatizing
Akh Tal Ebah: trumpet, flugelhorn, space dimension mellophone, space ethnic voice
Lamont McClamb [Kwame Hadi]: trumpet, percussion
Marshall Allen: alto sax, flute, percussion
Danny Davis: alto sax, flute, alto clarinet, percussion
Larry Northington: alto sax, conga, percussion
John Gilmore: tenor sax, drums, space ethnic voice
Pat Patrick: tenor sax, baritone sax, flute, electric bass, vocals
Danny Ray Thompson: baritone sax, flute, libflecto, percussion, vocals
Eloe Omoe: bass clarinet, flute, percussion
Lex Humphries: drums percussion
Robert Underwood [Aye Aton]: drums
Harry Richards: drums, percussion
Alzo Wright: drums, percussion
Stanley Morgan [Atakatune]: conga, percussion
Russell Branch [Odun]: conga, percussion
June Tyson, Ruth Wright, Cheryl Banks, Judith Holton: space ethnic voices

Discipline 27-II was recorded in 1972, a product of the same sessions that would yield Sun Ra's legendary Space Is the Place LP. The recordings took place October 19–20 at Streeterville Studios, Chicago, featuring the largest Arkestra line-up Ra had taken into a studio. The date was produced by Impulse! and Riverside veteran Ed Michel.

There have been several atrocious-sounding bootleg editions on the market, but this 2017 fully authorized remaster reveals the rich clarity of these sessions. This edition was remastered for Strut Records by Peter Beckmann from the original master tapes in the Sun Ra Music Archive, under license from Sun Ra LLC.

On the original 1972 Saturn version released by Sun Ra, the 24-minute title track was inexplicably divided into four separate tracks at arbitrary points, thus interrupting the flow of the work. On this remastered edition, the title track has been restored to its proper length without interruption.

The LP version, released by Strut for Record Store Day 2017, features complete original artwork, full roster of players on each track, and new sleeve notes by Francis Gooding.

A CD edition was issued in October 2017 by Corbett vs. Dempsey Records.

Sun Ra - 1973 - Space Is The Place

Sun Ra 
Space Is The Place

01. Space Is The Place
02. Images
03. Discipline 33
04. Sea Of Sound
05. Rocket Number Nine

Alto Saxophone – Danny Davis, Larry Northington, Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Danny Thompson, Pat Patrick
Bass – Pat Patrick
Bass Clarinet – Eloe Omoe
Congas – Russell Branch, Stanley Morgan
Drums – Alzo Wright, Harry Richards, John Gilmore, Robert Underwood
Flugelhorn – Akh Tal Ebah
Flute – Danny Davis, Danny Thompson, Marshall Allen
Percussion – Lamont McClamb, Lex Humphries, Russell Branch, Stanley Morgan
Piano, Organ [Space], Synthesizer [Moog] – Sun Ra
Tenor Saxophone – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Akh Tal Ebah, Lamont McClamb
Vocals – Akh Tal Ebah, John Gilmore
Voice [Space Ethnic Voices] – Cheryl Banks, Judith Holton, June Tyson, Ruth Wright

Recorded October 19th 1972 at Streeterville Recording Studio, Chicago, Illinois.

Mixed at Village Recorder, Los Angeles, California.

Gatefold inner cover contains poems from the book "The Immeasurable Equation" by Sun Ra.

Diferent recording that the soundtrack of the film "Space is the Place".

Space Is the Place provides an excellent introduction to Sun Ra's vast and free-form jazz catalog. Typical of many Sun Ra recordings, the program is varied; earthbound songs, like the swing number "Images" and Egyptian exotica piece "Discipline," fit right in with more space-age cuts, like the tumultuous "Sea of Sounds" and the humorous "Rocket Number Nine." Sun Ra fuses many of these styles on the sprawling title cut, as interlocking harmonies, African percussion, manic synthesizer lines, and joyous ensemble blowing all jell into some sort of church revival of the cosmos. Throughout the recording, Sun Ra displays his typically wide-ranging talents on space organ and piano, reed players John Gilmore and Marshall Allen contribute incisive and intense solos, and June Tyson masterfully leads the Space Ethnic Voices on dreamy vocal flights. This is a fine recording and a must for Sun Ra fans.

Sun Ra - 1973 - Astro Black

Sun Ra 
Astro Black

01. Astro Black 10:51
02. Discipline 99 04:42
03. Hidden Spheres 06:59
04. The Cosmo-Fire (Complete Version) 18:23

Sun Ra: Minimoog synthesizer, space organ, electro-vibraphone
June Tyson: lead vocals (1)
Ruth Wright: backing vocals (1)
Cheryl Banks: backing vocals (1)
Judith Holton: backing vocals (1)
John Gilmore: tenor sax, percussion
Danny Ray Thompson: baritone sax, bongos
Pat Patrick: mistro-clarinet
Marshall Allen: alto sax, oboe
Danny Davis: alto sax, flute
Akh Tal Ebah (Doug Williams): trumpet, mellophone
Kwame Hadi (Lamont McClamb): trumpet
Charles Stephens: trombone
Alzo Wright: violin, viola
Eloe Omoe: bass clarinet
Ronnie Boykins: bass
Tommy Hunter: drums
Atakatune (Stanley Morgan): conga
Odun (Russell Branch): conga
Chica: conga

All titles composed by Sun Ra

Recorded at El Saturn Studios, Chicago, May 7th. 1972

After years of self-releasing albums on his own Saturn label, Sun Ra signed with ABC's Impulse jazz imprint in 1972. A reissue series of earlier hard-to-find Saturn LPs was undertaken, along with a few new projects. The first premiere, Astro Black, was recorded and released in 1973 in the now-obsolete quadraphonic format (tho it was playable on stereo phonographs). The undertaking signaled a noble campaign on the part of Impulse producer Ed Michel to mainstream Sun Ra and broaden his audience, without any sacrifice of artistic integrity.

But the effort was doomed: the label suffered commercial losses on the project and lost faith in avant-garde space funk. Within two years, after corporate reshuffling (i.e., firings and hirings), ABC's Sun Ra project was abandoned. The company clipped the corners of the cardboard sleeves and dumped the lavishly illustrated gatefold LPs in record store discount bins (or as some disgruntled fans claimed, UNDER the bins). Yet the Sisyphean venture produced some worthwhile new music.

Astro Black was a return to quasi-accessibility, away (though not completely) from the anti-jazz experimentalism of the late 1960s, and toward synthesizer-driven space jams. The Arkestra's horn skronk was still prominent, but on side one of Astro Black it was largely anchored by the propulsive rhythm section of returning bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Tommy Hunter (along with a battalion of African percussion). With Sun Ra perched behind his Minimoog, this is very much a 1970s album. But as any listener will attest, it's also very much a Sun Ra album.

On the 11-minute title track, vocalist June Tyson croons a siren song above bassist Boykins' snaking groove. About 3-1/2 minutes in, the Arkestra achieves liftoff, after which they explore some free interplay the rest of the way.

"Discipline 99" is a loose, relaxed space walk with some fine ensemble work by the horns. The "Discipline" series, variously numbered and composed by Ra during the 1970s, were generally group-performed works which omitted solos; this recording is an exception, showcasing expressive offerings by John Gilmore (tenor sax), Akh Tal Ebah (trumpet), and the bandleader (electro-vibraphone). The percussion-heavy "Hidden Spheres" serves up some steamy African exotica, with Marshall Allen (alto sax), Kwame Hadi (trumpet), and Eloe Omoe (bass clarinet) intensifying the mood.

Side B of the LP (here track 4) consists of "The Cosmo-Fire," a sprawling 18-minute otherworldly affair of conducted Afro-futuristic improvisation unified by Boykins' inventive bass and punctuated by Sunny's synth and organ. The work provides an uncompromising contrast to the album's A-side, and proved that despite the major label upgrade, Sun Ra was intent on challenging his listeners.

There's a short chronicle of Ra's Impulse adventures in "The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse! Records," by Ashley Kahn. The book includes the following amusing anecdote by Ed Michel, in which he recalls his first Sun Ra mixing session in 1972: "I liked to mix at the pain threshold. It was really loud. We were mixing it quadraphonically in a relatively small room. Sun Ra was sleeping deep and snoring loud. For some reason, I stopped the tape in the middle of the tune. He came awake, wheeled his head like an owl does—all around the room, checking everything out. He said, 'You Earth people sleep too much.' He put his head down and started to snore again."

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Sun Ra - 1972 - Nidhamu (Live In Egypt Vol. II)

Sun Ra
Nidhamu (Live In Egypt Vol. II)

01. Space Loneliness No. 2 11:41
02. Discipline No. 11 9:39
03. Discipline No. 15 2:44
04. Nidhamu 13:12

Alto Saxophone, Congas – Larry Northington
Alto Saxophone, Flute – Danny Davis, Hakim Rahim
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Pat Patrick
Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Danny Thompson
Bass Clarinet – Elo Omoe
CPiano, Organ, Synthesizer – Sun Ra
Engineer [Recording Engineer] – Tam Fiofori
Percussion – Lex Humphries, Tommy Hunter
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – John Gilmore
Trumpet, Congas – Kwame Hadi
Vocals – June Tyson

'Nidhamu' (The Outer Bridge)
In the half-between world
Dwell they the tone-scientists
Mathematically precise
They speak of many things
The sound-scientists
Architects of planes of discipline.
......Sun Ra (poem on Back Cover)

Tracks A1-A3: Recorded at Ballon Theater, Cairo, Egypt December 17, 1971
Track B: Recorded in the house of Hartmut Geerken, Cairo, Egypt, December 12, 1971.
On some copies location is incorrectly given as live in Holland, 1971. Some copies has 'Live in Egypt Vol. II' printed on jacket by Danny Ray Thompson. (infos from 'The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra' by Robert L. Campbell)

In 1968, Ra moved the Arkestra from New York to Philadelphia, where he lived until his death (and where the Arkestra is still based). Ra released records most prolifically during the 1970s, usually on El Saturn but sometimes on the subsidiary Thoth Intergalactic. Nidhamu was recorded in Heliopolis and Cairo during the Arkestra’s first tour of Egypt. The tour is also documented on another Thoth album, Live in Egypt Volume 1, retitled Dark Myth Equation Visitation on reissue.

Nidhamu & Dark Myth Visitation Equation complete the Egypt trilogy. Most remarkable is 'Nidhamu' (the second release of the series, half recorded at the Balloon Theatre, the other half at Hartmut Geerken's house in Heliopolis) - a remarkable document: austere and very out there. Electric keyboards and an eerie 'Discipline No.11'set the scene, and after some solo Moog there's a spooky miniature 'Discipline No.15' introducing another long Moog and keyboards solo: 35 pretty abstract minutes that just slip by. 'Dark Myth Visitation Equation' follows (this was the first LP release, and has also been known as Sun Ra in Egypt Vol 1 and Nature's God). The first tracks are from the Cairo TV broadcast and the whole collection features more familiar groove-based pieces characteristic of the period, interspersed with Moog and electric keyboard solos. June Tyson reappears for 'To Nature's God' and the highly eccentric 'Why go to the Moon?'

"Nidhamu" is striking on early listenings, it broods. On close examination there's not a lot of content per se composition-wise. Lots of atmospheric noodling. The track which most impresses me is "Discipline 15" - short but ghostly.

Sun Ra - 1972 - Live In Egypt Vol. I

Sun Ra 
Live In Egypt Vol. I 
(Nature's God) (Dark Myth Equation Visitation)

01. Discipline 27
02. Interview With Ra
03. Solar Ship Voyage
04. Interview With Ra [concluded]
05. Cosmo-Darkness
06. The Light Thereof
07. Friendly Galaxy No. 2
08. To Nature's God
09. Why Go To The Moon?

Alto Saxophone – Hakim Rahim
Alto Saxophone, Congas – Larry Narthington
Alto Saxophone, Flute – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Pat Patrick
Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Danny Thompson
Bass Clarinet – Elo Omoe
Organ, Synthesizer [Moog], Electric Harpsichord [Rockichord], Piano – Sun Ra
Percussion – Lex Humphries, Tommy Hunter
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – John Gilmore
Trumpet, Congas – Kwame Hadi
Vocals – June Tyson

Side A was a TV broadcast from Cairo, 12/16/1971, and side B recorded at the house of Hartmut Geerken, Heliopolis, Cairo, 12/12/71.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Sun Ra - 1998 - Life Is Splendid

Sun Ra
Life Is Splendid

01. Enlightenment
02. Love In Outer Space
03. Space Is The Place
04. Discipline 27-11 / What Planet Is This? / Life Is Spelendid / Immeasurable
05. Watusi
06. Outer Spaceways Incorporated

Alto Saxophone – Larry Worthington
Alto Saxophone, Flute – Danny Davis, Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Pat Patrick
Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Danny Thompson
Bass Clarinet – Leroy Taylor (2)
Drums – Alzo Wright, Lex Humphries
Drums [Space] – Harry Richards, Robert Underwood
Lead Vocals – June Tyson
Percussion – Russell Branch, Stanley Morgan
Piano, Organ [Space], Keyboards, Lead Vocals – Sun Ra
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Lamont McClamb
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Vocals – Akh-Tal Ebah
Voice [Space Ethnic Voices] – Cheryl Bank, Judith Holton, Ruth Wright

Recorded in performance at Otis Spann Memorial Field, Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, 1972 for Atlantic Records.

A document of Sun Ra’s performance at the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, Life Is Splendid captures the Arkestra in peak psychotic form-and I mean that in a good sense. While on earlier ’50s and ’60s outings, Ra’s orchestra still had one foot solidly in the camp of Fletcher Henderson’s orchestral elegance as it explored the outer reaches of the avant-garde, this post-Woodstock, post-Hendrix edition of the Arkestra is solidly tuned into the electro-psychedelic vibe of the day. The sheer intensity here makes Miles Davis’ electrified Agharta and Pangaea bands look tame by comparison. Seething and cathartic, the Arkestra connected with MC5 fans then and relates more today to Sonic Youth than to the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

The Arkestra’s 37-minute set modulates from theme to theme and mood to mood, opening on a fairly melodic note

with the two-minute, metaphysical “Enlightenment,” sung by June Tyson. The band segues to a frantic, polyrhythmic percussion jam fueled by Ra’s grungy, organ distorted tones. The raucous, over-the-top excursion “Love in Outer Space” should appeal to the fringe elements of the Medeski, Martin & Wood crowd. The sickness factor only picks up from there on “Discipline 27-11,” reaching frightening proportions during Marshall Allen’s shriekback alto solo and Ra’s own horrifically dissonant synth solo.

Ra’s anthemic “Space Is the Place” is layered with more spiky Marshall Allen statements and some throat-ripping, octave-leaping by either Tyson or one of the Space Ethnic Voices (Judith Holton, Cheryl Bank, Ruth Wright). We don’t get to hear much of tenor sax giant John Gilmore or baritone sax ace Pat Patrick throughout the disc, but we do hear drummers Lex Humphries and Alzo Wright unleash an explosion of drums and percussion on “Watusi” that sounds like every metal and wood object inside your house falling down an infinite flight of stairs. The Arkestra’s set ends with “Outer Spaceways Incorporated,” a Ra ditty that encourages the audience to sign up-just before he hits the launch button on his synth.

A disturbing and wonderful document from the archives of John Sinclair.

This lists six tracks on the sleeve (nine if you count the one titled "Discipline 27-11/What Planet Is This?/Life Is Splendid/Immeasurable" as four discrete pieces), but it's actually one continuous 37-minute performance from Ra's "Space Is the Place" suite. Recorded live at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival on September 8, 1972, it is actually incomplete: as producer John Sinclair writes in his liner notes, "The opening sections are not available because a proper mix could not be achieved until several minutes into the performance." It's a decent, energetic slice of the kind of music typical of Ra's performances during this time, moving back and forth from June Tyson's moving, incantational vocals to freer instrumental passages highlighting Ra's organ. Those passages, not unexpectedly, get freer and freer until they teeter on the edge of bursting, sometimes putting wailing brass, Ra's careering "space organ," or pummeling percussion at the forefront. The sound is good, better (as is the music) than the 1973 Ra performance at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival that was issued by Total Energy on the Outer Space Employment Agency album.

Life is Splendid is an unfortunately overlooked posthumous live recording of Sun Ra & His Solar Myth Arkestra from their September 8, 1972 performance at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival (by virtue of being released on the relatively obscure Total Energy Records label). Capturing the group at the peak of their powers, here they are at their chaotic, cathartic, and futuristic best. The proceedings are ratcheted up a notch during "Space is the Place," especially as vocalist June Tyson nearly shatters her vocal cords in the process of doing some Yoko Ono-inspired (or perhaps the other way around) throat singing. The 37-minute suite is swirling with continuous action, whether it's the buzzing industrial hum of Sun Ra's keys or the team of six percussionists driving the action with a heart arrhythmia pulse. This set compares favorably to one of Sun Ra's most widely distributed vinyl recordings, It's After the End of the World: Live at the Donaueschingen and Berlin Festivals, as it has better sound quality and has fewer lulls. If you want to know what it's like to get blasted into space, Life is Splendid is the recording for you.

Sun Ra - 1973 - Horizon

Sun Ra 

Saturn Records 1973 LP Tracklist:

01. Starwatchers
02. Discipline 2
03. Shadow World
04. Third Planet
05. Space Is The Place
06. Horizon
07. Discipline 8

Art Yard 2008 CD Reissue:

01. Theme Of The Star Gazers
02. Discipline #2
03. The Shadow World
04. Enlightenment
05. Love In Outer Space
06. Third Planet
07. Space Is The Place
08. Horizon
09. Discipline #8
10. We'll Wait For You
11. The Satellites Are Spinning

Alto Saxophone, Congas – Larry Northington
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe, Percussion, Vocals – Marshall Allen
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Vocals – Danny Davis, Hakim Rahim
Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Vocals – Danny Thompson
Bass Clarinet, Vocals – Eloe Omoe
Drums, Vocals – Clifford Jarvis, Lex Humphries, Tommy Hunter
Electric Bass, Vocals – Pat Patrick
Organ [Tiger], Synthesizer [Moog], Piano [Upright], Vocals – Sun Ra
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion, Drums, Vocals – John Gilmore
Trumpet, Congas, Vocals – Kwame Hadi
Vocals, Other [Dance] – Gloristeena Knight, June Tyson, Verta Grosvenor

Recorded at The Ballon Theatre, Cairo, Egypt 12/17/1971.

Art Yard has been reissuing a number of much sought after Saturn albums with great sound and beautifully packaged. Horizon was recorded at the Ballon Theater in Cairo, Egypt, December 17, 1971. Arkestra members on this monumental tour through Europe and Egypt include John Gilmore, Marshall Allan, Pat Patrick, Eloe Omoe, Tommy Hunter and June Tyson.

This rare platter contains material documented during Sun Ra and his Arkestra's first Egyptian visit, and as such is exceedingly important in Ra's voluminous canon, as much of his personal and historical mythology is centered there. The selections on Horizon (1974) were recorded at the Ballon Theater in Cairo on December 17, 1971, and was sponsored by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. While even more of the tour exists in private tape collections, this is one of the only discs to have been issued -- though in very limited numbers -- making it a real treat for free jazz aficionados. The opening, " Starwatchers/Theme of the Stargazers" medley begins with a choral chant and solo from John Gilmore (tenor sax/percussion) before the entire Arkestra dive headlong into a languid free jazz jam that evolves slowly into an intense flute and alto sax run with Danny Davis (flute), Hakim Rahim (flute), and Larry Northington (alto sax). Ra's mini-Moog is atonal and schizophrenic as his sharp staccato inflections pierce the soundscape overtop of the Arkestra. The recording is far from perfect, as the musicians move in and out of microphone range, however, there is suitable fidelity when discerning the band as they ebb and swell around Ra's ferocious performance. Both "Discipline 2" as well as "Discipline 8" are variations of the Arkestra standard, and each is unequivocally unique. Albeit brief, another highlight is the "Space Is the Place" chant and free jazz processional, allowing the combo to interact at their most melodic -- on this disc, anyway. Students and enthusiasts of avant-garde jazz -- especially of Sun Ra -- should actively seek copies of this LP for a thoroughly enjoyable sonic excursion that rises to the auspicious occasion.

For me this is Sun Ra's finest album. Live in December 1971 at the Ballon Theatre, Cairo, Egypt. I've always found the live recordings of Sun Ra to be better than most of his studio dates, and this album is the nearest thing to being at a Ra gig you'll ever get. The special atmosphere may be due to the location; Egypt must surely take a special place in Sun Ra's heart, something of a spiritual homecoming. All stops are pulled out on this set; totally breath-taking.

Sun Ra - 1993 - Soundtrack for the Film "Space is the Place"

Sun Ra
Soundtrack for the Film "Space is the Place"

01. It's After The End Of The World 3:25
02. Under Different Stars 3:55
03. Discipline 33 3:22
04. Watusa 7:11
05. Calling Planet Earth 3:04
06. I Am The Alter-Destiny 1:08
07. Satellites Are Spinning 2:33
08. Cosmic Forces 3:09
09. Outer Spaceways Incorporated 3:00
10. We Travel The Spaceways 2:28
11. The Overseer 3:04
12. Blackman / Love In Outer Space 16:53
13. Mysterious Crystal 5:53
14. I Am The Brother Of The Wind 5:54
15. We'll Wait For You 4:11
16. Space Is The Place 4:23

Alto Saxophone, Congas, Percussion – Larry Northington
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet, Percussion – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Kora, Cowbell, Percussion – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone, Percussion – Danny Ray Thompson
Bass Clarinet, Bongos, Percussion – Eloe Omoe
Congas – Ken Moshesh
Drums – Lex Humphries
Piano, Synthesizer [Mini-moog], Organ [Farfisa], Clavinet [Hohner], Keyboards [Rochsichord], Voice [Declamation], Arranged By, Composed By – Sun Ra
Tenor Saxophone, Drums, Percussion, Vocals – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Wayne Harris
Trumpet, Congas, Vibraphone – Kwame Hadi
Vocals, Bells – June Tyson

Film produced by Jim Newman.
All selections were recorded in Oakland, California in 1972, for inclusion in the film Space is the Place.
This music is previously unreleased.

Space Is the Place is the soundtrack to a film that was made but never released, and the tunes are among his most ambitious, unorthodox, and compelling compositions. Between June Tyson's declarative vocals, chants, and dialogue and Ra's crashing, flailing synthesizer and organ fills, and with such songs as "Blackman/Love in Outer Space," "It's After the End of the World," and "I Am the Brother of the Wind," this disc offers aggressive, energized, and uncompromising material. Ra's pianistic forays, phrases, and textures were sometimes dismissed as mere noodling when they were part of a well-constructed multimedia package. This comes as close as any of Ra's releases to being not only a concept work but a blueprint for his live shows from the early '70s until the end of his career. Features some previously unissued cuts.

Some of it is very wild, some pieces feature familiar space chants lead by the terrific June Tyson, others have distant horns with cavernous reverb, still others are heavy percussion workouts, and some are oddball synth pieces. All in all, this encompasses just about everything Sun Ra is about, and provides a perfect snapshot of his most daring and productive period. Highly recommended to adventurous listeners who want to learn more about this giant's music and figure out which way they want to go with it. If I had one tiny complaint, it's that individual players - Tyson aside - aren't given a lot of solo room. Also, I put this on just after listening to Iannis Xenakis' Musique Electro Acoustique and I think that however fringe-y and belittled Sun Ra may be in the popular view, his electro-acoustic music holds up as well or better than the more revered composer's works.

Sun Ra - 1972 - Universe in Blue

Sun Ra
Universe in Blue

01. Universe In Blue Part I
02. Universe In Blue Part II
03. Blackman
04. In A Blue Mood
05. Another Shade Of Blue

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Oboe, Piccolo Flute, Flute – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone – Pat Patrick
Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Danny Thompson
Bass Clarinet, Piccolo Flute – Eloe Omoe
Cello – Alzo Wright
Percussion – Lex Humphries
Tenor Saxophone – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Akh Tal Ebah, Kwame Hadi
Vocals – June Tyson

“The Universe in Blue is a fantastic set. The title cut is just a slow blues soloing showcase with Sun Ra's "intergalactic space organ," trumpet (not sure who), John Gilmore's tenor sax, and back to Ra. June Tyson takes center stage for "Blackman", giving a particularly impassioned performance. "In a Blue Mood" (just Ra and Luqman Ali on drums) and "Another Shade of Blue" are just back-to-the-basics blues form for more soloing. Ra sticks to organ for the entire date, and it's just wonderful to hear what the Arkestra does with such a "simple" form. This is a fairly rare, fairly inside date, and fans of Ra and Gilmore's playing will be especially pleased.” 
“The Universe in Blue is a fantastic set. The title cut is just a slow blues soloing showcase with Sun Ra's "intergalactic space organ," trumpet (not sure who), John Gilmore's tenor sax, and back to Ra. June Tyson takes center stage for "Blackman", giving a particularly impassioned performance. "In a Blue Mood" (just Ra and Luqman Ali on drums) and "Another Shade of Blue" are just back-to-the-basics blues form for more soloing. Ra sticks to organ for the entire date, and it's just wonderful to hear what the Arkestra does with such a "simple" form. This is a fairly rare, fairly inside date, and fans of Ra and Gilmore's playing will be especially pleased.” 
Universe In Blue was originally pressed up by Sun Ra’s Saturn label in 1972.  Despite their history of pressing inconsistencies (to say the least) Sun Ra’s records usually do hold together with their own extra-terrestrial logic.  Containing five Ra originals, Side A contains the title cut; a two-part organ jam from the composer himself.   Side B kicks off with some of June Tyson’s most profound recorded moments, unleashing a gospel-ish wail singing about “when the black man ruled the earth” on the show stopper “Black Man”.  Two instrumentals close Side B with the eleven-piece “Blue Universe Arkestra” featuring regulars like Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, Eloe Elmo and sometime Yusef Lateef drummer Lex Humphries holding down the rhythm.  It’s an unusually bluesy set (particularly for the era) and yet another puzzle piece to one of the 20th century’s most intriguing performer/composers.

Sun Ra - 1971 - Pictures Of Infinity

Sun Ra 
Pictures Of Infinity 

01. Somewhere There 15:10
02. Outer Spaceways Incorporated 7:02
03. Saturn 6:08
04. Song Of The Sparer 4:22
05. Spontaneous Simplicity 7:56

Alto Saxophone – Danny Davis
Baritone Saxophone – Pat Patrick
Bass – Ronnie Boykins
Bass Clarinet – Robert Cummings
Drums – Ahk Tal Ebah, Ali Hassan, James Jackson, John Gilmore, Kwame Hadi, Marshall Allen, Nimrod Hunt, Pat Patrick, Teddy Nance
Flute – Danny Davis, James Jackson, Marshall Allen, Pat Patrick
Oboe – Marshall Allen
Percussion – Clifford Jarvis
Piano, Electric Piano [Clavioline] – Sun Ra
Trombone – Ali Hassan, Bernard Pettaway, Teddy Nance
Trumpet – Ahk Tal Ebah, Kwame Hadi

Recorded in New York City, 1968. Track B3 courtesy of Saturn Records.

"A lot of people say that I'm just playing around, but it's not like that. I know music from head to tail, I know all the laws of music, I was reared up playing classics and I went to college and studied music for teacher's training, so I KNOW music. But I'm just following my own way, and I know what I'm doing." — Sun Ra, 1966 

This collection of recordings, drawn from several sources, are somewhat stylistically unified. The personnel, arrangements, audio quality, and research indicate these recordings were made at concert locations in and around New York, ca. 1966. They might have originated from a series of college tours Sun Ra undertook with the Arkestra in upstate New York, while the band was living and largely working in New York City. 

In the mid-1960s, Sun Ra's commercial recordings and performances were reflecting new musical directions, many representing extreme departures from his Chicago (1956–1960) and early New York (1961–1963) approaches to jazz. Such albums as Other Planes of There (1964), The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (volumes 1 & 2; 1965), The Magic City (1965), Strange Strings (1966), and Atlantis (1967) pushed beyond the conventions of structured, beat-driven jazz to challenging frontiers. To many ears, they were no longer "inside" jazz at all. Rather, they were "outside"—groundbreaking musical forms that transcended categories. In jazz circles, this side of Ra sparked controversy, gaining him many allies, while losing others. 

The 1966 recordings in this set, however, are largely "inside," and demonstrate that during this period Ra didn't abandon his jazz roots (in fact, he never did). These titles, many dating from his Chicago and early New York years, represent an updating of Sun Ra's early catalog (with some new titles). The playing is loose, but structured, and Sun Ra's featured soloists get ample opportunities to stretch out. Call it "harder bop." 

In the ballad-like “The Wind Speaks,” the opening and closing themes echo the melody of “Somebody Else’s World,” an early 1970s composition which originated in the late 1950s as “Somebody Else’s Idea.” This Third Stream arrangement features a haunting duet between Ra on Clavioline and Ronnie Boykins on bowed bass. "State Street," first recorded in 1960 and rarely performed, harkens back to one of Ra's earliest musical gigs in Chicago, the Club DeLisa, where as Herman "Sonny" Blount he played piano for the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in the late 1940s. A short take of "We Travel the Spaceways" closes the album; during the tour this title was often performed as an abbreviated coda. 

As with any Sun Ra recordings, imperfections abound. The mixes are less than perfectly balanced, there's occasional distortion and missed performance cues, and soloists are not always near the mic. But as we've often pointed out, Sun Ra never recorded in a Dave Brubeck studio with a Miles Davis budget. This is "Garage Jazz." 

Although no precise date is given, these five cuts are thought to have been documented circa 1967-1968 by Sun Ra (piano) and his Arkestra in New York City, where the band was in residence at the time. There is a mixture of older works as well as newer selections on 1971's Pictures of Infinity. That said, even the established compositions -- most notably the full-throttled reading of "Saturn" that commences the collection -- are given fresh sonic visages. Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore is particularly potent with his flawless fluidity running melodic yet hard bopping lines over top of the solid rhythm section. He gives a hearty personality to his interjections as they dart in and out of the spiraling mile-a-minute arrangement. Bassist Ronnie Boykins is commanding, especially as his solo emerges out of drummer Nimrod Hunt's rapid-fire timekeeping. "Song of the Sparer" is an exquisite and rarely documented tune that begins with some intricate phrases from Ra before evolving into a languid and practically dirgelike improvisational piece. "Spontaneous Simplicity" is highlighted by some warm and inviting interplay between a flutist -- presumably either Danny Davis or Pat Patrick -- and Ra, whose strident piano accompaniment is remarkably suited to the earthy nature of the woodwind's ethereal, alternately liberating and plaintive sound. Immediately contrasting the more rural expressions is the aggressive extended free jazz attack heard on "Somewhere There." The bombastic percussion and practically sadistic sax-and-drum onslaught thrash about in an almost definitive example of the sheer power possessed by the Arkestra. The "Outer Spaceways Incorporated" chant concluding this long-player is similar to other versions and remains an affirmative statement juxtaposing an inescapably dissonant introduction with the playful nature of the singalong quality of the verses.