Thursday, May 9, 2019

Sun Ra - 1963 - When Sun Comes Out

Sun Ra
When Sun Comes Out

01. Circe
02. The Nile
03. Brazilian Sun
04. We Travel The Spaceways
05. Calling Planet Earth
06. Dancing Shadows
07. The Rain-Maker
08. When Sun Comes Out

Sun Ra: Piano, Electric Celeste, Percussion
Walter Miller: Trumpet
John Gilmore: Tenor Sax, Drums, Percussion
Teddy Nance: Trombone
Bernard Pettaway: Trombone
Marshall Allen: Flute, Alto Sax, Percussion
Pat Patrick: Baritone Sax, Bongos, Drums on "We Travel The Spaceways"
Danny Davis: Alto Sax
Ronnie Boykins: Bass
Clifford Jarvis: Drums
Lex Humphries: Drums on "Calling Planet Earth"
Tommy Hunter: Gong, Drums, Tape Effects
Theda Barbara: Vocal on "Circe"

Recorded at The Choreographers Workshop, New York, November 1962

When Sun Comes Out was the first release on Sun Ra's Saturn label to be recorded in New York. Released in 1963, it was preceded by The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra, which had been recorded in Newark, New Jersey (and produced by Tom Wilson, who issued it on Savoy in 1961). When Sun Comes Out was also the first release to contain recordings set down at the Choreographer's Workshop, which served as a longtime rehearsal space for Sunny & the Arkestra. The venue would be a rich source of historic material for future albums.

Stylistically, the move to New York marked Sunny's journey beyond swing, bebop, hard bop, and R&B. This advance is abundantly reflected on When Sun Comes Out. After being neglected by fans and press in the final stages of his Chicago period, Sun Ra responded to the New York jazz community's embrace by pushing the form in new directions—often to the point that what he was playing wasn't jazz. But the only category that mattered to Sun Ra was music.

When Sun Comes Out is percussion-centric, and not just as backdrops—on many tracks whatever's being hit with a stick (or palms) is on top of the mix. Sun Ra's piano, some brass, and a quartet of saxophones compete for airspace with an arsenal of drums, congas and bongos, bells and cowbells, shakers and gongs (a good deal of it handled by the reed section). In fact, the mix often defies professional engineering standards, as musical hardware that usually provides the foundation occasionally dominates the lead instruments.

The horns are more aggressive than in the Chicago years, Sunny experiments with atonality on the keyboard, and on many tracks he dispenses with conventional structure. The Arkestra here includes four saxophonists (John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Pat Patrick, and newcomer Danny Davis, then just 17), who take liberties to extend the instrument's vocabulary, their solos often independent of the rhythm bed. Sun Ra was traversing the universe, and there's a lot of space out there. On this album the explosive drummer Clifford Jarvis makes his recording debut with the Arkestra, a relationship that would extend on and off for a decade and a half. There's also a fun ensemble vocal—identified as having been performed by "Arkestra Unit"—on a remake of "We Travel the Spaceways."

This remastered edition includes a number of sonic treats:

• The complete version of the opening track "Circe" (featuring wordless vocals by Theda Barbara); the Saturn release omitted most of the introductory gong sequence (by Tommy Hunter).

• The LP's side two tracks (here 6 – 9) in stereo from the master tape. All known pressings of the LP were in mono.

• The previously unreleased part two of the percussive composition "The Nile," featuring a haunting flute solo by Marshall Allen.

• The complete "Dimensions in Time," recorded at the Choreographer's Workshop around this time but released only in an abridged version (and titled "Primitive") on the mid-1970s hybrid release Space Probe.

A consistently excellent Ra album, which is a little unusual, as most of his albums do have some major low points on them. Side a is particularly good, and very listenable too, not a term so readily associated with a Sun Ra album. This side tends to be really low key, quiet, brooding and mainly just percussive. There's even a vocal number on this side "We Travel the Spaceways". I say vocal, until June Tyson joined them, vocal numbers were always more of a chanting/talking affair. The B side is quite standard mid to high tempo bop. There's some excellent squawk/noise fest stuff at the end of "Calling Planet Earth". This album is well worth investigating, and a pretty decent introduction to anyone who's new to, but daunted by the mighty Ra discography.

The New York period saw Ra focusing far more on percussion backdrops as opposed to horn arrangements (virtually everyone on the album gets a percussion credit), and everything from the percussion to the horn solos to Ra's piano playing took a more aggressive stance. John Gilmore's tenor solo on "Calling Planet Earth" throws the bop rule book out the window, and he is heard developing a more extended vocabulary of skronks and squeals. This track exemplifies the change in sound and focus from the Chicago days.... When Sun Comes Out is a first glimpse into an era that would culminate in some of the Arkestra's most renowned recordings.



  2. Boy, it's still remains difficult to keep up with the repackaging/reissuing/remastering/revisiting of Sun Ra's catalog. I just noticed in the accompanying essay that this particular edition contains "a number of sonic treats," all of which warrant a new listen. Many thanks, Zen Archer!