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Sun Ra: Sun Ra (featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold)

Jerry D'Souza By

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The event was billed as Four Days in December, and on the last four days of 1964, Judson Hall in New York City was witness to a torrent of free jazz. The series of concerts featured Cecil Taylor,Bill Dixon, Archie Shepp, Paul Bley, John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd and, perhaps fittingly enough on New Year's Eve, the Sun Ra Arkestra.

The Arkestra was without regular tenor saxophonist John Gilmore. His place was filled by Farrell Sanders who changed his name to Pharoah Sanders at the suggestion of Sun Ra. Flautist Black Harold (Harold Murray) was also in the band. The two fit in seamlessly, adding their sound to the inventions of the Arkestra. Their performance is now being released in its entirety for the first time, with the addition of the first five tracks and 45 minutes of additional music.

The music is vital, as much a testament to the times, as it is to Sun Ra's approach. An innovator who was not constricted by form, the music flowed as he and the band saw fit. He not only assimilated various musical genres, he juxtaposed composition and invention to add impact to the development of the music. "The Other World," almost 20 minutes long, conceptualizes the trajectory of the Arkestra. Sanders was already into blowing up a storm of notes, indulging heartily, abetted by the other horns. But he casts that aside for a thoughtful linear development with just an occasional fibrillation. The drums are organic to the structure, the first interjection coming from the cross currents of Jimmhi Johnson and Cliff Jarvis before Black Harold adds an African rhythm on the log drum.

"The Now Tomorrow" turns the approach around. Sun Ra's piano and Black Harold's flute stroll along a pastoral plateau, in comes the bowed bass and, just as it seems that the playing field is level, the horns punctuate the mood with convoluting lines and an immersed African melody. The sublime return of the arco is dispelled by thunderous chords and a rain of notes on the piano only to return in a soft lilt for the coda.

The recording marks a rare appearance by Black Harold and shows the seeding of Sanders as an energetic saxophonist ready for a challenge. More importantly it restores a vital document in the recording history of the Arkestra.


Track Listing: Cosmic Interpretation; The Other World; The second Stop is Jupiter; The Now tomorrow; Discipline; 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 and Ronnie Boykins: bass; Clifford Jarvis and Jimmhi Johnson: drums; Art Jenkins: space voice.

Title: Sun Ra (featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold) | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk


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