Recorded live at the Donaueschingen Music and Berlin Festivals in 1970, this gem ideally captures Sun Ra and His Intergalactic (Research) Arkestra at its most otherworldly self. Individual and collective sounds reach for ears at times beyond human comprehension. The 21-member Arkestra is anchored by its leader captaining keyboards of various frequencies of inter-planetary communication and fresh audible sensations—from his Farfisa organ, “roc-si-chord,” “spacemaster,” Mini- Moog synthesizer, Hohner clavinet and electra, to acoustic piano. Soundscapes vary from Twilight Zone-ish scores (the Moog-heavy “Out in Space”) to African ritualistic percussive escapades (“Watusi”).
Ceremoniously opening with June Tyson’s heavily breathed words spoken as if serenaded from a tropical bird—“dream,” “blackness,” and lastly “a world” swirl into the rumbling and gathering of percussion, brass, and reeds. Flutes, oboe, and a modified bassoon (with a French horn mouthpiece!) performed by Leroy Taylor (aka Elo Omoe) create a modern classical orchestral atmosphere before the swinging beats of drums and trumpet-like scorching alto sax lines carry the momentum elsewhere.
A bass-driven piano introduces dozens of different meters performed on drums and percussion instruments of all shapes and sizes over the Egyptian march of “Watusi.” A near twenty-minute suite culminates in the closing “Duos,” featuring the avant alto sax vocabulary of Marshall Allen and Danny Davis followed by the burly baritone dialogue of Pat Patrick and Danny Thompson. One of the singular and unfortunate drawbacks are several abridged versions either subtly fading into segments or, as with “Duos,” more abruptly. Nonetheless, such a recording as this offers the next best thing to but a sampling of what it must have been like to experience the path that Ra offered his listeners in a live concert, perhaps the most uninhibited platform for his musical message.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .