355

Sun Ra and His Space Arkestra: What Planet Is This?

John Eyles By

Sign in to view read count
Sun Ra and His Space Arkestra: What Planet Is This?
It is appropriate that this double album is being released by Leo Records' Golden Years imprint. Recorded in New York in July, 1973, it features as large an Arkestra as any that Sun Ra put together and includes all of his key collaborators. What Planet Is This? comes from the crucial period when Sun Ra had progressed from cult status to wider recognition, a process aided by a strange alliance with the MC5. But unlike the '50s and '60s (which are well-documented, particularly by the reissue programme on Evidence) or the late '80s and early '90s (covered well, not least by Leo), this period is not well-served by current releases. All of that makes this a welcome issue.

The sound quality is generally good (not always true of Leo's past Sun Ra releases), although some of the balance is rather eccentric; for instance, on "Space Is The Place, the vocals are far forward and the band sounds very distant. In fact, given the instrumentation (thirteen reeds and brass!) the band doesn't sound nearly as powerful as it could or should.

By contrast, the ten-minute version of "Love in Outer Space really captures the majestic power of the band in full flight, driven along by Ra's surging organ, wild, free-blowing horns and massed percussion that creates a massive polyrhythmic groove that is sure to move anyone with a pulse. Just as impressive is a twenty-minute version of "The Shadow World that features a barnstorming big band (again, with percussion aplenty) interspersed with more incredible Ra organ and free-blown improvisations on saxophones and tuba, the latter providing a rich, fruity bass line.

Special mention must go to vocalist June Tyson, whose vocals are pure-toned and powerfully soulful throughout. Her call-and-response "declamations (an appropriate term; "vocals doesn't do them justice) with Ra himself on the title track turn it into a space-age revivalist meeting. Extraordinary.

Another valuable piece in the ever-evolving Sun Ra jigsaw.

Track Listing

Untitled Improvisation; Astro Black; Discipline 27; Untitled Improvisation; Space Is The Place; Enlightenment; Love In Outer Space; The Shadow World; Watusa, Egyptian March; Discipline 27 II including What Planet Is This? / The Universe Sent Me To Converse With You / My Brother The Sun.

Personnel

Sun Ra: piano, mini-moog, organ, declamation; John Gilmore: tenor sax, percussion, voice; Marshall Allen: alto sax, oboe, flute, percussion, cowbell, voice; Danny Davis: alto sax, flute, percussion, voice; Larry Northington: alto sax, percussion, voice; Eloe Omoe (Leroy Taylor): bass clarinet, bassoon (also with French horn mouthpiece), percussion, voice; Danny Ray Thompson: baritone sax, flute, percussion, voice; Pat Laurdine Patrick: baritone sax, eb, voice; James Jacson: bassoon, flute, percussion, voice; Akh Tal Ebah (Douglas E Williams): trumpet, flugelhorn, megaphone, percussion, voice; Kwame Hadi ( Lamont F Williams): trumpet, percussion, voice; Dick Griffin: trombone, percussion, voice; Charles Stephens: trombone, percussion, voice; Hakim Jami: tuba, percussion; Alzo Wright: cello, percussion; Ronnie Boykins: bass; Lex Humphries: drums; Aye Aton (Robert Underwood): drums; Atakatune (Stanley Morgan): congas, tympani; Odun (Russell Branch): congas; Harry Richards: percussion; June Tyson: vocal, declamation, percussion, dance; Judith Holton: vocal, dance; Ruth Wright: vocal, dance; Cheryl Banks: vocal, dance.

Album information

Title: What Planet Is This? | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Golden Years of New Jazz

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Hug!
Hug!
Matt Wilson Quartet
Read Touch & Go
Touch & Go
Susan Tobocman
Read The Ilkley Suite
The Ilkley Suite
Jamil Sheriff
Read Moving Through Worlds
Moving Through Worlds
Fiona Joy Hawkins
Read Data Lords
Data Lords
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Read Sleepy Town
Sleepy Town
Jamie Pregnell
Read Momento
Momento
Dave Milligan
Read Peace
Peace
Spirit Fingers

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.