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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra: Space Is The Place

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He was a solar flare, a surge of energy that rocketed across great distances and divides, bestowing all he encountered with unforgettable memories and disrupting radio transmissions. Science-fiction, transcendentalism, and jazz coalesced in the being called Sun Ra. A radical concoction, sky-bound and heaven-sent. Ra's music was always stratospheric, always reaching above and beyond. His constant striving resulted in an abundance of stellar records. But as a sonic statement and philosophical manifesto, 1973's Space Is The Place stands ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra: Of Abstract Dreams

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Neither Sun Ra's death nor the passing of a quarter of a century since has slowed down the seemingly insatiable appetite for archival recordings of the pianist, composer and poet. In 2014, to mark the centenary of Sun Ra's birth--né Herman Poole Blount--Strut Records and Art Yard issued the 2-CD, career-spanning compilation In The Orbit of Ra. This was followed by Planets of Life and Death (2015), a previously unreleased live recording from 1973 in Amiens, France, Some Far Place ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra: God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be

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Sun Ra is best known for the extensive archive of recordings he made with his Arkestra, and most Ra enthusiasts are probably first attracted to his work by the sui generis imagination he brought to arranging for large ensembles. These span the recalibrated swing-band tropes of Jazz In Silhouette (Saturn, 1959), a perfect choice for an advanced-level Blindfold Test, through off-planet takes on exotica such as those compiled on the previously reviewed Exotica (Modern Harmonic, 2018), and on to such ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra And His Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra: Sun Embassy

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I know what you're thinking, the world doesn't need another Sun Ra record. You don't need another Sun Ra record. With a discography swelling monthly, sometimes weekly, I often think when will it end? Then, once back in my right mind, I rejoice to find some tasty unreleased material from a very fertile period in Herman Poole “Sonny" Blount's career.Sun Embassy comprises rehearsal tapes from five sessions from May 1968 to October 1969. This would be shortly after ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra: Exotica

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Spring 2018 is delivering a welcome batch of Sun Ra reissues, some of them remastered editions of existing albums, others newly put-together compilations. Among the compilations, two stand out: the previously reviewed Sun Ra Plays Gershwin (Enterplanetary Records, 2017) and now Exotica. Both are mellifluous beauties which showcase Ra's unapologetic love of a good tune. Listeners who prefer bracingly atonal Ra will need to look elsewhere. In the jazz community, the guiltiest of guilty pleasures might well be exotica, the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra: Sun Ra Plays Gershwin

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Here is a treat for all lovers of the Great American Songbook. Well, maybe not quite all, for the confluence of names in the album title Sun Ra Plays Gershwin may sound ill-matched to Ra's detractors. But that would be to ignore Ra's love of good tunes and his sure touch when it came to arranging ballads and jazz standards, first for Fletcher Henderson in the 1940s and later for his own bands. You want bracingly atonal Ra? You got ...

JAZZMATAZZ

Sun Ra Nuclear War: A Smooth Soundtrack to the Apocalypse

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With threats of our impending doom through nuclear hellfire seemingly increasing by the day. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to talk about one of my favorite Sun Ra songs, “Nuclear War." A song so smooth and hilarious it almost makes you welcome the apocalypse. “Nuclear War" was released twice, initially on the 1982 album of the same name, and then a second time a year later on A Fireside Chat with Lucifer since on both ...

BOOK REVIEWS

Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium by John Corbett

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Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium John Corbett 264 Pages ISBN: #0822363666 Duke University Press Books 2017 John Corbett is a music critic, record producer, and curator. For twelve years--from 2000 to 2012--he wrote a column titled “Vinyl Freak" for Downbeat magazine, and those collected columns form the backbone of this book. Corbett wrote about out of print LPs in his extensive collection: ranging from the extremely obscure (and in a ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Calling Ra, Mr. Sun Ra your rocket ship is ready

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How prophetic is it that we now live in the second century of Sun Ra's earthly existence? Born (maybe) in Alabama 1914, Herman Poole Blount became the pianist, arranger, band leader, poet, and can we say prophet(?) we know as Sun Ra. He was both a man of his times and a messenger from the space. I say he was maybe born in 1914, because the person known as Sonny Blount claimed to have been abducted by space aliens in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sun Ra & His Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra: The Intergalactic Thing

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If you are a Sun Ra devotee, let's not use the terms “fanatic" or “zealot," you probably measure your collection in board feet instead of inches. Unlike many jazz legends of the 1950s, and 1960s, Herman Sonny Blount had the foresight to record his ensemble's rehearsals and concerts. He even established his own label El Saturn Records in 1957. Yes, nineteen-fifty-seven, when other jazz giants were bound to onerous contracts with major labels, Ra was producing what we now have ...