All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

463

Sun Ra: Strange Strings

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Emblematic of its title, this is one of the most unusual albums in the vast discography of visionary bandleader Sun Ra. In league with such classics as Heliocentric Worlds (ESP, 1965), The Magic City (Evidence, 1965) and Atlantis (Evidence, 1967), this obscure session focuses on similarly intense long-form improvisations. Originally recorded in 1966, Strange Strings is the culmination of Ra's most otherworldly experiments.

Pre-dating the comprovisations of Butch Morris and the game pieces of John Zorn, this is a classic example of Ra's conduction methods. With no rehearsal beforehand, ("a study in ignorance," Ra told his musicians) the results are surprisingly structured and spaciously uncluttered.

The only Sun Ra album of its kind, the title track and "Strange Strange" feature the entire Arkestra playing stringed instruments; ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, kotos, koras and more. In addition to the array of exotic strings, the ensemble features Art Jenkins uttering reverb-drenched mutterings, a huge sheet of tempered metal used as percussion, and a heady dose of intermittent reverb infiltrating everything.

"Worlds Approaching" opens the session dramatically; thundering tympani announcing an ominous, droning bowed bass ostinato, unleashing a slew of acerbic solos from Ra's front line of horn men, with Marshall Allen's fervent oboe heading the charge. Reverb, distortion and echo oscillate randomly throughout the piece, adding a truly surreal quality. Typical of this vintage, the lo-fi recording quality elicits a folksy, music vérité ambience.

"Strange Strings" and "Strange Strange" reverberate with dissonant texture and percussive clatter; the Arkestra eschews horns entirely, using the thrift store strings Ra acquired for them instead. Far less accessible than the opening tune, there is still a definite sense of episodic logic to these pieces. Similar instrumental groupings materialize with regularity, spurring on subtle shifts in sound. Punctuated by Jarvis' explosive percussion tirades, Ra's directorial hand in the proceedings is obvious.

Previously unissued, "Door Squeak" was recorded a year later. As the title suggests, it features Sun Ra playing a door with a squeaky hinge, accompanied by members of the Arkestra playing string instruments. Quieter, but similar to the previous cuts, it exudes a sparse alien sound-scape with Ra's hinge sounding uncannily Moog-like as it descends in pitch.

An anomaly even in the wildly unconventional discography of Sun Ra, this is a revealing listen for those interested in the furthest reaches of experimental music. For those unafraid to take the trip, Strange Strings will definitely take you places you have never been.


Track Listing: World's Approaching; Strings Strange; Strange Strange; Door Squeak.

Personnel: Sun Ra: electric piano, lightning drum, tympani, squeaky door, strings; Marshall Allen: oboe, alto saxophone, strings; John Gilmore: tenor saxophone, strings; Danny Davis: flute, alto saxophone, strings; Pat Patrick: flute, baritone saxophone, strings; Robert Cummings: bass clarinet, strings; Ali Hassan: trombone, strings; Ronnie Boykins: bass viol; Clifford Jarvis: tympani, percussion; James Jacson: log drums, strings; Carl Nimrod: strings; Art Jenkins: space voice, strings.

Title: Strange Strings | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Sun Ra Plays Gershwin

Sun Ra Plays Gershwin

Enterplanetary Koncepts
2018

buy
Of Abstract Dreams

Of Abstract Dreams

Strut Records
2018

buy
Sun Embassy

Sun Embassy

Roaratorio Records
2018

buy
Exotica

Exotica

Modern Harmonic
2018

buy
The Intergalactic Thing

The Intergalactic...

Roaratorio Records
2016

buy

Related Articles

Read Dawn CD/LP/Track Review
Dawn
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Life Of CD/LP/Track Review
Life Of
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun CD/LP/Track Review
Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun
by Gareth Thompson
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Enso CD/LP/Track Review
Enso
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Let Your Light Shine On CD/LP/Track Review
Let Your Light Shine On
by Chris May
Published: May 27, 2018
Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 26, 2018
Read "Triangulum" CD/LP/Track Review Triangulum
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" CD/LP/Track Review Never Bet The Devil Your Head
by Chris Mosey
Published: April 10, 2018
Read "Thelonious Sphere Monk" CD/LP/Track Review Thelonious Sphere Monk
by Kevin Press
Published: February 1, 2018
Read "Departures" CD/LP/Track Review Departures
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "Triple Double" CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Say It" CD/LP/Track Review Say It
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: April 27, 2018