Sun Ra enthusiasts take note: there are 36 minutes of the Man from Saturn and his Arkestra on this disc - the length of a good LP in the old days. Plus, how can any Saturnian resist the lure of a Ra disc recorded in the shadow of the Sphinx herself, right in Cairo? Top it off with 33 more minutes of Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band, and you've got a real treat.
This is Ra in 1983 and 1984, sounding surprisingly close to the tight Ra band of the Fifties, rather than to the later, looser ensembles. To be sure, there isn't a lot of intricate ensemble work on these three Ra tracks, but the heads do have a bit of a throwback bop feel. Plus, "Egypt Strut" and "Dawn" both feature John Gilmore solos of terrific architectonic coherence and passion, and Marshall Allen chimes in on flute just as mellifluously. The Sun himself contributes a keyboard solo of ringing power on "Egypt Strut." "Watusa," meanwhile, is a feast of percussion in the grand Ra fashion.
The Cairo jazz ensembles, which range from 21 members ("Ramadan") to five ("Oriental Mood,") hold up their end of the disc wonderfully. This is energetic and deeply sincere jazz with a marvelous Middle Eastern feel, complete with chanting on "Ramadan." All the instrumentalists are first-rate, especially pianist Khamis El Khouly, especially on "A Farewell Theme."
A great one. A feast. Don't miss it.
Track listing: Egypt Strut / Dawn / Watusa / Ramadan / Oriental Mood / A Farewell Theme / Music for Angela Davis.