Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Sun Ra: Sun Ra: Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Sun Ra
Sun Ra: Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold

Any newly available, 1960s vintage Sun Ra would be cause for celebration, so ESP's unearthing of 45 minutes of well-recorded stereo is wonderful indeed. Five new pieces supplement the six tracks which made up the previously issued version of this title on the keyboard player and bandleader's own Saturn label. Often disputed, the provenance of the original release, which didn't appear until 1976, has been established as part of the short-lived Jazz Composers' Guild's "Four Days in December" concerts, recorded on New Year's Eve 1964.

This session shortly preceded the masterworks of Heliocentric Worlds 1 and 2 (ESP, 1965) and the Magic City (Saturn, 1965), and though not quite matching that high standard, offers valuable illumination of the Arkestra at a formative time. For one thing it's the only opportunity to hear reed iconoclast Pharoah Sanders' explosive squawk with the Arkestra, taking the place of the absent John Gilmore, away touring with drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. By recompense, Sanders' squealing tenor saxophone bursts out of the ensembles for exciting but brief passages on "The World Shadow" and "Rocket Number 9," proving a more than adequate deputy. It's also the only time the titular Black Harold (also known as Atu Harold Murray among multiple aliases, and last heard on percussion on Kahil El'Zabar's Papa's Bounce (CIMP, 1998)) recorded with Ra, making the most of his opportunity with a vocalized flute showcase, echoing some of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's innovations, on "The Voice of Pan".

Though demarcated into 11 tracks, the music breaks down into three continuous suite-like segments, connecting an intoxicating blend of space chants ("The Second Stop is Jupiter" and "Rocket Number 9"), conducted improvisations, ensemble arrangements and cacophonic sound clusters from the Arkestra. Incidentally, "The World Shadow" is the first known version of Ra classic "The Shadow World," though the band navigates its infamously tricky theme more loosely and minus the saxophone melody and counter melody of later versions.

Of the previously unreleased music, "Cosmic Interpretations" is a short prelude for Ra's barrelling piano, percussive tinkling, and arco bass, while "The Other World" is an almost 20 minute curate's egg of roller coaster conduction featuring cathartic horn outbursts with more Sanders, and a searching solo passage for Pat Patrick's baritone saxophone, wrapped around a 10 minute interlude of unremarkable drums and percussion. "The Now Tomorrow" starts with bucolic piano and flutes, before giving way to wavering and scraping arco bass accompanied by what sounds like an uncredited nasal double reed instrument, but could be Art Jenkins' space voice. Some expertly pummelled piano takes over before a calming return to the opening gambit for flute and horns. The final piece is the standout. Titled "Discipline 9," it is largely a terrific, languid reading of "We Travel the Spaceways," though with a lovely, almost chamber ensemble opening which does resemble Ra's "Discipline" series, though allegedly he didn't begin writing them until 1971. No matter, the lush ensemble textures are a joy to the ear before the infectious rolling rhythm and vocal chant emerge.

It wouldn't be Sun Ra if there wasn't still some mystery pertaining to the release. Though the personnel listed on the sleeve was assembled from contemporary reviews (likely based on printed handouts), it differs from that given in The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra (Cadence Jazz Books, 1999), which adds a trombone, trumpet and French horn, along with Robert Northern's bass clarinet (clearly audible on "Dawn Over Israel"), but subtracts Ronnie Boykins' bass and Jimmhi Johnson's drums. Stereo sound on the unreleased tracks is better than the mono of the previously released cuts, which sound as if they were lifted from vinyl, with a few faint pops and clicks still audible and some distortion on "Dawn Over Israel". Minor gripes notwithstanding, this is a seminal historic document and nothing short of essential for Sun Ra aficionados.

Tracks: Cosmic Interpretations; The Other World; The Second Stop is Jupiter; The Now Tomorrow; Discipline 9; Gods On A Safari; The World Shadow; Rocket Number 9; The Voice Of Pan; Dawn Over Israel; Space Mates.

Personnel: Sun Ra: piano, celeste; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; Black Harold (Harold Murray): flute, log drum; Al Evans: trumpet; Teddy Nance: trombone; Marshall Allen: alto saxophone; Pat Patrick: baritone saxophone; Alan Silva: bass; Ronnie Boykins: bass; Clifford Jarvis: drums; Jimmhi Johnson: drums; Art Jenkins: space voice.

Title: Sun Ra: Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read Love, Gloom, Cash, Love Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!" Extended Analysis Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!
by John Kelman
Published: April 17, 2017
Read "Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)" Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Grateful Dead: Cornell '77" Extended Analysis Grateful Dead: Cornell '77
by Doug Collette
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word" Extended Analysis Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word
by Doug Collette
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Love, Gloom, Cash, Love" Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon" Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017