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.

Sun Ra - 1998 - Calling Planet Earth

Sun Ra
Calling Planet Earth

01. Discipline No. 5 1:49
02. Discipline No. 10 2:45
03. Enlightenment 2:35
04. Love In Outer Space 8:12
05. Discipline No. 15 2:44
06. The Satellites Are Spinning 2:38
07. Calling Planet Earth 6:48
08. The Outers 9:54
09. Adventures Outer Space 7:32

Sun Ra and His Arkesta recorded at Tivoli Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark on December 5, 1971.

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

originally released as "Calling Planet Earth", CD, Freedom CD 741071 (1998).
Tracks 3-1 to 3-9: probably Cheryl Banks and Wisteria el Moondew (Judith Holton) dance.
Recorded at Tivoli Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 5, 1971.

Sun Ra - 1971 - It's After The End Of The World

Sun Ra
It's After The End Of The World
Live At The Donaueschingen And Berlin Festivals

01. Strange Dreams - Strange Worlds - Black Myth / It's After The End Of The World 14:40
02. Black Forest Myth 9:15
03. Watusi, Egyptian March 2:48
04. Myth Versus Reality (The Myth-Science Aproach) / Angelic Proclamation / Out In Space 18:22
05. Duos 4:42

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute – Abshlom Ben Shlom
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet – Danny Davis
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe, Piccolo Flute, Drums – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute – Danny Thompson
Baritone Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Drums – Pat Patrick
Bass – Alejandro Blake Fearon
Bass Clarinet – Robert Cummings
Drums – Lex Humphries
Drums, Oboe, Flute – James Jackson
English Horn – Augustus Browning
Mellophone, Trumpet – Ahk Tal Ebah
Oboe, Bassoon, Bass Clarinet – Leroy Taylor
Organ [Farfisa, Hohner Electra], Clavinet [Hohner], Piano, Performer [Roc-si-chord, Spacemaster], Synthesizer [Mini-moog], Voice, Composed By, Arranged By – Sun Ra
Percussion [African], Other [Fireeater, Dancer] – Hazoume
Percussion [Hand Drums] – Nimrod Hunt
Percussion, Other [Dancer] – Ife Tayo, Math Samba
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – John Gilmore
Trumpet – Kwame Hadi
Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass – Alan Silva
Voice – June Tyson

Duos and all the A side were recorded on October 17 1970 at Donaueschingen, Myth versus Reality was recorded at Berlin Jazz Festival, Kongresshalle, Berlin. Watusi is not clear which concert comes from.

Sun Ra, one of the most idiosyncratic, prophetic and theatrical personalities which populated the Jazz Planet (Earth or elsewhere). The album was recorded live in Germany during the 1970 Donaueschingen and Berlin Festivals for the MPS label and produced by Joachim Berendt. It presents five tracks, all of which are original composition by Sun Ra, which are performed by an orchestra which includes twenty one additional players. Some of the more familiar names of the orchestra members include among others saxophonists John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, bassist Alan Silva, and drummer Lex Humphries.

The music, although pre-conceived and structured, is mostly freely improvised by the orchestra members, who play lengthy solos and engage in group improvisations. It is very dramatic and of course creates a kind of "space" ambience, which seems to be unattached to anything "earthly". I have seen and heard Sun Ra live many times over the years and this recording presents him at his most experimental stage of his musical "philosophy", which in many respects was also the most fascinating in retrospect.

If we ignore the hype and theatrics, this is one of the earliest examples of large scale collective improvisations, and as such is an important historic document of the development of Jazz and Improvised Music. The fact that these German festivals welcomed this extravagant music documents the openness and spirit of exploration that characterized the European Jazz scene at the time, often accepting American Jazz musicians, who were personae non gratae in their homeland.

This forgotten little gem is definitely worth being discovered!

Side Note: The legendary German MPS (Musik Produktion Schwarzwald) label, founded by Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer (HGBS) in 1963, first as SABA Records and later on from 1968 as MPS Records, was the most important independent European record label, which had an enormous contribution to the development of European Jazz. For many years MPS cooperated with the legendary German producer / author Joachim Berendt, my friend and mentor, whose visionary approach and open-mindedness brought the crème de la crème of the Jazz (in the broadest meaning of the word) musicians from all over the world to the label.

Between 1963 and 1983 MPS produced about five hundred albums, many of which are among the most important Jazz recordings on this planet. In 1983 the MPS catalog was sold to Universal, which sadly resulted in all those artistic treasures to disappear from the face of the earth – a situation not only tragic but culturally criminal. Universal reissued only very few MPS albums on CD over the years.

Since 2008 the German Promising Music label is releasing some of the MPS recordings, but at a very slow pace. In 2014 the German company Edel AG bought the MPS catalogue from Universal and released a series of 25 MPS albums with a new graphic design, which brought all those excellent albums back to life, but that series was sadly not continued until years later.

Spectacular, wild double from two live 1970 dates in Germany. Black Myth, from Donaueschingen on October 17th, provides lots of up front horn madness throughout from the usual Gilmore-Allen-Patrick front line, augmented here by Danny Davis and Danny Thompson. But Sun Ra also turns in spectacular synthesizer solos (especially on the lead track), and June Tyson is by this time an indispensable part of the Arkestra. A difficult one for those who find freer music unpleasant listening, but a superb one for those prepared to meet the challenge. And after listening to the wonderful Black Myth I was shocked to find that Out in Space from two weeks later in Berlin, was even better. The opening title track, which goes on for nearly 40 minutes, is perhaps the best extended Sun Ra piece I've ever heard, starting at a fever pitch and never letting go for an instant. There are wild horn charts and solos, synth solos, even some beautiful acoustic piano (that of course edges up into something altogether more challenging), and much more throughout the length of the piece. It would seem that everything after would inevitably be anti-climactic, but it's never that easy with Ra. Next up there's some pieces from his "Discipline" series, then a great version of "Walking on the Moon," a couple more tracks and then another lengthy piece (15 minutes or so) called "Myth Versus Reality" that begins with a recitation and builds slowly into a typically wild and free number before the disc closes out with two signature chants. Both discs are excellently recorded and full of brilliant music, but they're not easy going.