1960 was one of many turning points in the career of Sun Ra. That year he moved from Chicago’s South Side to New York City. Behind, he left the idea that became the AACM, plus many inspired musicians who would create the Chicago avant- sound.
Unheard Music producer John Corbett has unearthed two never heard and presumed lost dates from Ra’s last days in Chicago. The first seven tracks were from a live date from a tavern called the Wonder Inn, while the remaining ten are a studio date at The Majestic Hall.
The live session strangely enough, has better sound quality than the Majestic, which features more complex arrangements. The Wonder Inn’s tracks mix Ra originals with standards. But just like Ra, when he asks “How High The Moon,” he might be literally inquiring! His outer space explorations had been advancing on for some time and “Space Aura” mixes nicely with the standard “China Gate.” Patrons mingle with the band, urging Ra and Company on. Cash register clang and the short solos (most songs run 3 & 1/2 minutes) are taken with luster. Yes, this is the heyday of John Gilmore’s tenor work. Together with Marshall Allen, they take all comers on, cooking “How High The Moon” at a sprinter’s pace and the spacey “Angels & Demons At Play.” While those days are long gone, this close quarters session is invaluable.
The Majestic Hall Session that completes these seventy minutes makes up in soloing and arrangement what they lack in sonic quality. Ronald Wilson’s baritone is utilized to great effect. Ra employs more accents here with soloists being support by the expanded horn section and plenty of percussion. Ra’s varying “Majestic” version show a penchant for the exotic and the swinging bachelor pad music that was oh so hip. The Arkestra always was placing a bit of twist to the popular music of the day.