Sun Ra And His Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra: Sun Embassy

Mark Corroto By

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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 Sun Ra recorded his Black Mass (Jihad Productions, 1968) with LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka), Outer Spaceways Incorporated (Saturn, 1974), and before making My Brother The Wind (Saturn, 1970), and performing at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival.

We find the great man using various electric keyboards to accompany his all-star saxophonists , John Gilmore and Marshall Allen. We are grateful that he recorded many of these rehearsals. There's an early version "Why Go To The Moon," a composition the Arkestra would return to many times, complete with the vocal repetition of "rocket number nine try Neptune." Also, the classic pieces "Ancient Aiethiopia" and "Sunology" are included.

Pieces like "The Stranger," "Dance Of Fire," and "Cosmic Strut" are percussion-laden numbers the Arkestra utilized to maintain momentum. The latter piece is a twist on the contemporary funk of 1968. The title track wraps three flutes around congas, percussion, Ra's clavinet, and Gilmore's seldom-heard clarinet. The highlight here might be "Sunology," a beautiful and gentle ballad used to showcase Gilmore and Allen in harmony before Ra lays down some blues organ.
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