Thursday, May 22, 2014

sun ra

Sun Ra 
(born Herman Poole Blount, legal name: Le Sony'r Ra)
(May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993)

This prolific avante garde jazz composer had a visionary experience that revealed to him that he was a visitor from Saturn and had a mission to change the world with his music. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was composing music by the age of twelve.  He received scholarship at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University where he studied music theory for a year before dropping out.  It was around this time that he claimed to have a religious awakening:  “My whole body changed into something else. I could see through myself. And I went up...I wasn’t in human form...I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn...they teleported me and I was down on [a] stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop [attending college] because there was going to be great trouble in schools…the world was going into complete chaos...I would speak [through music], and the world would listen. That’s what they told me.”

He turned his family home into a musical waystation where he composed and rehearsed with his group the Sonny Blount Orchestra, creating a reputation around the area with their diverse performances.  When he was drafted in 1942, he sought exemption as a conscientious objector and served in the forestry service until he was eventually released from service due to his hernia.  After his aunt died, he left Birmingham for Chicago.  He played around Chicago with such luminaries as blues singer Wynonie Harris and bandleader Fletcher Henderson before starting his Space Trio.  He became increasingly interested in African-American political activism and it was around this time that he legally changed his name to Le Sony'r Ra.   As he drew more musicians into his circle, Ra dubbed his group the Arkestra; and, drawing from Egyptian mythology and space age imagry,  the members of the group wore costumes and headgear that set them apart from other groups as much as their eclectic music.  He found a partner in Alton Abraham, who became his business manger and co-founded their independent El Saturn Records.  Sun relocated to New York bringing longstanding bandmembers John Gilmore and Marshall Allen as well.  The group developed a following there among beatniks, hippies, and critics and stayed in the city until 1969, when the building they had been renting went up for sale.  They relocated to  the Germantown section of Philadelphia in a house on Morton Street that would become Ra's homebase for the rest of his life.  The group toured internationally and Ra even taught music courses at the University of California in Berkeley.  

He continued to compose and perform throughout his life (even after a stroke in 1990) with a revolving cast of musicians that involved dozens of different musicians, recording over one hundred albums and over one thousand original compositions.  Ra would expound on the role of his band in the world:  "It's demonstrating that some people in the form of men can stick together, along with the marriages, and along with the Black Panthers. Along with the many things you put up there, it's still here. And they're not with me because I promised them anything, because I always said 'they're in the Ra jail.' And my jail is the best jail in the world, and they learn things in my jail. And that's what I express: they're in jail, and they're not going anywhere, because they can't, because the creative God knows me, that if I had my way I'd just [inaudible] and go to Egypt, and be in the desert and hide out and do some of my research cycle. But I can't do that because he got these fellows with me, and I can't just desert them! They don't necessarily believe what I'm saying, because it's so fantastic. I got a picture of John - I'm out there talking to people, and he's standing in the wings terrified with what I'm saying! Because I'll be doing things according to what I'm told, and I have to do equational things, and establish things, and in Philadelphia where it all started, I said I want an audience [inaudible] but all the people there were white, [except for] about three black people in there - as usual - so I came out, off the stage where the band was playing, and I said I was tired of the situation on this planet, with black people still sleeping - dead, not helping me, and the condition they're in - they shouldn't want to be in. They shouldn't want to be like white people; white people are in trouble. And basically they're ignorant of spiritual things. [inaudible] And I would do something to change things, so I said I have to use the book. So I went out in the audience, and then there was a black person on [one] side, and I took him by the head [inaudible] and said, 'Now, it is written: those who I have called my people, I call not my people. The white race are my people now. And the black folk are still over there until they wake up.' Now, they was up in the air; I had them held by their hair, and they were astounded and they were scared. But the white people didn't say nothing; they just looked up and they smiled. And so I did something then. I said, well, if the black people aren't going to wake up, I'm just going to take over the white race, so go ahead and [inaudible], I've got it now. I said, because, you know, they've got a lot of money - down in Texas I told them this: I'm going to do something wrong tonight. I'm trying to do right, but if I can't so something right, I can do something wrong. Whatever it is, it's wrong, but I'm going to do it in Texas. In Fort Worth. I got up and told the people, they said that God is love; I'm going to abolish that thing. It is no good, because people are more than love, so how come God's got to be limited to one attribute? I've got a song that's called, 'God is more than Love can ever be.' So don't be talking about 'God is love.' I said, 'but God does love you if you want to call it that, and he sent me to demonstrate it. Now God's not love. But I am a message of love for you, and I'm going to come out there in the audience and - God sent love in person - I'm coming out there in Texas, and I'm going to walk past you, and whatever you do, do not let Love walk by you without the touch and the feel of Love.'"

 Face the Music / Space is the Place

'A Joyful Noise'

'Jazz in Silhouette'  1959

Sun Ra on piano, celeste, and gong;  Hobart Dotson on trumpet;  Marshall Allen on alto sax and flute;  James Spaulding on alto sax, flute, and percussion;  John Gilmore on tenor sax and percussion;  Bo Bailey on trombone;  Pat Patrick -on baritone sax, flute, and percussion; Charles Davis on baritone sax and percussion;  Ronnie Boykins on bass;  and William Cochran on drums.

Side A:
"Enlightenment" (Hobart Dotson, Ra) – (5:02)
"Saturn" – (3:37)
"Velvet" – (3:18)
"Ancient Aiethopia" – (9:04)
Side B:
"Hours After" (Ra, Turner) – (3:41)
"Horoscope" – (3:43)
"Images" – (3:48)
"Blues at Midnight" – (11:56)

'The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume One'  1965

Sun Ra on piano, bass marimba, electric celeste, and timpani;  Chris Capers on trumpet;  Teddy Nance on trombone;  Bernard Pettaway on bass trombone;  Marshall Allen on piccolo, alto sax, bells, and spiral cymbal;  Danny Davis on flute, alto sax;  Robert Cummings on bass clarinet and woodblocks;  John Gilmore on tenor sax and timpani;  Pat Patrick on baritone sax and timpani;  Ronnie Boykins on bass;  and Jimhmi Johnson on drums, percussion, and timpani.

Side A:
"Heliocentric" – 4:00
"Outer Nothingness" – 7:40
"Other Worlds" – 4:18
Side B:
"The Cosmos" – 7:20
"Of Heavenly Things" – 5:40
"Nebulae" – 3:16
"Dancing in the Sun" – 1:50

'Atlantis'  1969

Sun Ra on Solar Sound Organ, Solar Sound Instrument;  John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and percussion;  Pat Patrick on baritone saxophone and flute;  Marshall Allen on alto saxophone and oboe;  Danny Thompson on alto saxophone and flute;  Bob Barry on drums and lightning drum;  Wayne Harris on trumpet;  Ebah on trumpet;  Carl Nimrod on space drums;  James Jacson on log drums;  Robert Cummins on bass clarinet;  Danny Davis on alto saxophone; and Ali Harsan on trombone.

Side A:
"Mu" – 4:30
"Lemuria" – 5:02
"Yucatan"   3:38
"Bimini" – 5:45
Side B:
"Atlantis" – 21:51

'Space Is the Place' 1972

Sun Ra on piano, Farfisa Professional = space organ;  Akh Tal Ebah on trumpet, flugelhorn, and vocal;  Kwame Hadi (Lamont McClamb) on trumpet;  Marshall Allen on alto saxophone and flute;  Danny Davis on alto saxophone and flute;  John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and  vocal;  Danny Thompson on baritone saxophone, flute, and vocal;  Eloe Omoe on bass clarinet and flute;  Pat Patrick on electric bass, baritone saxophone, and vocal;  Lex Humphries on drums;  Atakatun (Stanley Morgan) and Odun (Russel Branch) on percussion;  and the Space Ethnic Voices:   June Tyson, Ruth Wright, Cheryl Banks, and Judith Holton.  

"Space is the Place" - 21:14
"Images" - 6:15
"Discipline" - 4:50
"Sea of Sounds" - 7:42
"Rocket Number Nine" - 2:50

'Languitity'  1978

Sun Ra on organ, synthesizer, piano, arrangements, keyboards, organ (Hammond), piano (Electric), vocals, bells, production, arp, fender rhodes, orchestra bells, and mini Moog;    John Gilmore on tenor sax;  Danny Ray Thompson on flute and baritone sax;  Eddie Gale on trumpet;   Michael Ray on trumpet and flugelhorn;  Marshall Allen on flute, oboe, and alto sax;   Luqman Ali on percussion;   Artaukatune on drums and tympani;  Disco Kid ( Slo Johnson ) on guitar;  Dale Williamson guitar;  Atakatun Odun on congas;   Elo Omoe on flute and bass clarinet;  Julian Pressley on baritone sax;  Richard Williams on bass;  James Jacson on oboe, basson, flute, and voices;  and June Tyson on voices.  

"Lanquidity" – 8:19
"Where Pathways Meet" – 6:30
"That's How I Feel" – 8:09
"Twin Stars of Thence" – 9:30
"There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)" – 10:58

'Sleeping Beauty' 1979

Sun Ra on piano, electric piano, organ, and vocals;  Noel Scott on alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, and percussion;    Marshall Allen on alto saxophone and flute;  Hutch Jones on alto saxophone, and tenor saxophone;   Danny Ray Thompson on baritone saxophone, flute, and percussion;  Eloe Omoe on bass clarinet, flute, and percussion;  James Jacson on bassoon, flute, and percussion;  Stanley Morgan on congas;  Eddie Thomas and Reg McDonald on drums;  Luqman Ali on drums and vocals;  Richard Williams and Steve Clark on electric bass;  Taylor Richardson on electric guitar;  Vincent Chancey on french horn;  Atakatune on percussion;  Sylvester Baton on reeds;   Kenny Williams on tenor saxophone and flute;  John Gilmore on tenor saxophone, percussion, and vocals;  Craig Harris and Tony Bethel on trombone;  Curt Pulliam and Walter Miller on trumpet;  Michael Ray on trumpet and vocals;  Harry Wilson on vibraphone;  Damon Choice on vibraphone and vocals;  and June Tyson and Rhonda Blout on vocals.  

Springtime Again 9:17
Door of the Cosmos 8:58
Sleeping Beauty 11:52

'The Sound Of Joy'

Sun Ra - Piano, pianoforte elettrico Wurlitzer
Art Hoyle - Tromba
Dave Young - Tromba
John Avant - Trombone
Pat Patrick - Sax alto, sax baritono
John Gilmore - Sax tenore
Charles Davis - Sax baritono
Victor Sproles - Basso
William Cochran - Batteria
Jim Herndon - Timpani, timbales

1. El is a Sound of Joy 0:00
2. Overtones of China 04:03
3. Two Tones ( Pat Patrick, Charles Davis) 07:28
4. Paradise 11:09
5. Planet Earth 15:39
6. Ankh 20:04
7. Saturn 26:35
8. Reflections in Blue 30:36
9. El Viktor 36:57
10. As You Once Were (Bonus Track) 39:30
11. Dreams Come True (Bonus Track) 43:50

'Mayan Temples'  1990

Sun Ra on piano and synthesizer;  Michael Ray and Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet and vocals;  Tyrone Hill on trombone;  Marshall Allen on alto saxophone and flute;  Noel Scott on alto saxophone;  John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and timbales;  James Jacson on bassoon and Ancient Egyptian Infinity Drum;  Ronald Wilson on tenor saxophone;  Carl LeBlanc on electric guitar;  Jothan Callins on bass and electric bass;  Clifford Barbaro and Earl "Buster" Smith on drums;  Ron McBee on congas and percussion;  Jorge Silva on percussion;  Elson Nascimento on surdo and percussion;  and June Tyson on vocals. 

"Dance of the Language Barrier" - 3:58
"Bygone" - 5:15
"Disciple No. 1" - 4:57
"Alone Together" (Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz) - 7:02
"Prelude to Stargazers" - 5:17
"Mayan Temples" - 7:40
"I'll Never Be the Same" (Gus Kahn, Matty Malneck, Frank Signorelli) - 4:57
"Stardust from Tomorrow" - 3:38
"El Is a Sound of Joy" - 5:26
"Time After Time" (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne) - 4:21
"Opus in Springtime" - 6:41
"Theme of the Stargazers" - 14:09
"Sunset on the Nile" - 5:42

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