Monday, February 10, 2014

New Release on roaratorio Feb 2014: Sun Ra "Other Strange Worlds"

Other Strange Worlds
roar 33 LP

Within Sun Ra’s vast-as-outer-space discography, the album that orbits the furthest away from the known jazz universe is Strange Strings. Calling it a “study in ignorance,” Ra directed his Arkestra stalwarts to pick up unusual stringed instruments and homemade percussion with which they had little familiarity, and improvise without any guidelines or direction; the resulting record is one of Ra’s best. Now, Roaratorio is proud to issue a satellite around that lonely planet: Other Strange Worlds, recorded in Ra’s NYC apartment in May of 1965, dates from the same era and employs the same methodology as Strange Strings. But while the latter album featured the full Arkestra, Other Strange Worlds pares the players down to a core quintet of Ra, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Art Jenkins, and Ali Hasaan. There’s plenty of freewheeling collective improvisation in the Ra catalog, but rarely in a small-group setting such as this. Half of the pieces are texture-over-tonality string experiments, while the rest feature exotic reeds and percussion. Other Strange Worlds is a significant addition to Sun Ra’s body of work, and a brilliant example of free improv from the days before it had a name. 
Download coupon included.

“There’s always more Ra being issued than anyone can keep up with. But this one’s essential. Don’t skip it.” – Byron Coley

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Al Anderson Party Favors 1989

Al Anderson
Party Favors 

Released April 14, 1989
LP - Twin/Tone Records TTR88110-2
CD - Rykodisc 10817

Produced by Al Anderson and Bill Scheniman.
Recorded by Johnathan Freed at The 19th Studio, Glastonbury, CT..
Mixed by Bill Scheniman at The Warehouse, Philadelphia, PA
Al Anderson with Tom Ardolino, Joe Greico, John Sebastian, Chuck Martin, Bill Holliman, Rudy Rubini, Bill Scheniman.

In the first three years of release the project sold: 1,552 vinyl albums, 1,032 cassettes and 1,614 CDs.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sun Ra Arkestera 1970 Photo by Jacques Bisceglia from Black & White Fantasy

June Tyson, Richard Wilkinson, Marshall Allen, Eloe Omoe, Sun Ra
between Paris and Donaueschingen, 1970
by Jacques Bisceglia, 1940-2013 from Black & White Fantasy.

Sun Ra Turns 100: Jazz at Lincoln Center October 5, 2013

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s The Allen Room
on October 5 at 7pm and 9:30pm

New York, NY (August 27, 2013) To celebrate the 100th birthday of prolific composer, bandleader, pianist, poet and philosopher Sun Ra, The Sun Ra Arkestra with Marshall Allen perform in a special concert event entitled Sun Ra Turns 100 in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s The Allen Room on October 5 at 7pm and 9:30pm. This performance marks The Sun Ra Arkestra’s first appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Sun Ra organized The Arkestra sixty years ago as a platform to render a vision that simultaneously drew on the ancient and the modern, incorporating elements of black vaudeville, modern dance, Egyptian cosmology, Eastern philosophy, numerology, surrealism, kitsch, and the Bible. The Arkestra served as a canvas on which Sun Ra deployed African rhythms, atonal melodies, electronic timbres, raw blues expression, and unfailing swing, framed by one-for-all discipline. Sun Ra lives on in the current edition of the ever-changing Arkestra, led by alto saxophonist-woodwindist Marshall Allen, a founding member of the Arkestra in the laste ‘50s.

This show will also feature visual artist Michael Arthur creating live pen and ink artwork inspired by the performance. These real time works of art will be projected above the stage to underscore Sun Ra’s persistent modernity. Combining music and fine art, Sun Ra Turns 100 promises to be a most memorable journey.

As Marshall Allen said, “Sun Ra always said his music was from the 21st Century and here we are!”

Free pre-concert discussion at 6pm and 8:30pm in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Irene Diamond Education Center. Sun Ra Turns 100: Sun Ra Arkestra with Marshall Allen will stream live on October 5 at 7 and 9:30pmET on Ticket prices for The Allen Room start at $45.

Sun Ra: A True Birthday by Seth Colter Walls

Sun Ra: A True Birthday by Seth Colter Walls

Outside Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room on Saturday, I overheard a question before the Sun Ra Arkestra’s debut appearance in the hall. “What era do they play?” a man asked a companion, referring to the many of styles of music that Sun Ra—the bandleader, pianist, composer, and philosopher—covered during his four-decade career. The answer sounded confident: “Oh, they play everything.”
That turned out to be correct. Though Ra died in 1993, today his Arkestra—“the way black people say ‘orchestra,’” the composer once explained—is led by his longtime lieutenant, the saxophonist Marshall Allen, under whom it still conjures great mystery and power. The 20-member ensemble (including harp, electric guitar, cello and viola), played early, bluesy works like “Deep Purple,” more mature big-band charts like “Saturn,” and also intense flights of group free-improvisation paired with acrobatic dancing and real-time paintings that were projected on a screen attached to the Allen Room’s glass wall (a large-scale monocle that peers down over Columbus Circle). In each piece, Farid Abdul-Bari Barron, who has taken over the composer’s role as the Arkestra’s keyboardist, was adept at evoking Ra’s style of playing, variously incorporating brisk runs of stride playing or dissonant Moog blasts.
It was a welcome sight, this Arkestra’s appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center—an institution with a grand tradition of celebrating Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, but which has historically stopped short of offering much attention to the avant-garde. Aside from being an excellent night that offered plenty of the advanced hard-swing that Thelonious Monk appreciated back in the day, it was also an important recognition of Ra’s contribution to jazz history.
Throughout his career, popular acclaim largely eluded Ra, while critical acclaim was inconstant. Many dismissed him for his outlandish and theatrical performances (he and the Arkestra wore homemade space suits, and their shows often included singers, dancers, and acrobats) as well as for his equally outlandish persona (he claimed to have been born on Saturn). He nevertheless had a devoted following, listeners who were delighted to find a joyful avant-garde music that, instead of sounding astringent, reverberated with soul. The appeal can easily be heard in “Interplanetary Music,” best recorded in 1960 for the Interstellar Low Ways album. Some band members chant, others provide convivial vocal harmony, while instrumentalists play sounds alien to most Western music.
Though Ra was an idiosyncratic and experimental composer, he also had roots in some of jazz’s earliest traditions. Born Herman Poole Blount (he later took the nickname Sonny) in Birmingham Alabama in 1913, he grew up listening to blues singers like Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith. Swing music—Duke Ellington’s band in particular—was also a formative influence, as can be heard in a 1933 recording of Ra’s song “Chocolate Avenue,” performed by the Clarence Williams Orchestra. Jodie Christian once described Ra’s early public presentation as that of a “a good pianist, playing conventional piano, stride.” By the late 1950s, his solo approach to acoustic piano took on a purposefully plunking sound, reminiscent of Thelonious Monk, but still quite distinct, as can be heard on Ra’s solo reading of the standard “Easy Street” (on the album Monorails and Satellites).

Sun Ra as we know him emerged in Chicago in the 1940s. After a harrowing experience applying for conscientious objector status during World War II briefly landed him in jail, Ra—then still called Sonny Blount—moved to Chicago, where he worked as an arranger for one of his idols, the big band leader Fletcher Henderson. Chicago at that time was a hotbed of African American political activism, including, among others, groups like the Black Muslims and the Black Hebrews. This fascinated Blount, who, amidst feelings of deep racial alienation, began to read the mystic texts and Egyptian histories from which he would derive his Sun Ra persona. In 1952, Sonny Blount took a new name: Le Sony’r Ra.
At about the same time he founded the Arkestra. The group’s earliest recordings from these years sound surprisingly like traditional big band tracks when compared to their later works, yet even here there are subtle innovations and hints at what was to come. One early track, “India” (from the album Super-Sonic Jazz) makes use of electric piano long before the first “fusion” albums of the late 1960s. Another, slightly later recording, “Brainville,” features an oddly insistent baritone-sax note amid the Arkestra’s other, Ellingtonian accents. Perhaps most affecting is Ra’s solo keyboard track, “Advice to Medics,” titled after his history of playing for what his biographer John Szwed describes as a therapy-through-music group that “included catatonics and severe schizophrenics.” (The biographer reports that one patient, breaking a years-long silence, approached Ra to ask: “Do you call that music?”)

Sun Ra’s music became most abstract in the 1960s, when he and the Arkestra moved to New York and took up a residency at the East Village club, Slug’s. This is where Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) encountered the Arkestra. Though initially skeptical, he was won over as soon as he saw the group live. “Sun-Ra,” he wrote in 1966, “wants a music that will reflect a life-sense lost in the West, a music full of Africa.…On one piece the Arkestra moves, behind Sun-Ra, in a long line through the dark, chanting and playing…a totally different epoch is conjured.” Baraka described Ra’s new record for the ESP label, The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, as “one of the most beautiful albums I have ever heard,” the product of the “first big band of the New Black Music.”
In the 1970s, the band’s recording catalog began to sprawl even more chaotically as it toured Europe, releasing a number of live albums. Not all are essential, though the two volumes of The Solar Myth Approach show Ra’s impressively abstract playing on the Moog synthesizer. The grooving late 1970s albumLanquidity betrays an influence of R&B, but it’s the recently reissued Disco 3000that I found myself enjoying most, during a recent Ra binge. (It’s not actually very disco at all: the track “Sky Blues” offers some prime down-home riffing.)
The prospect of getting to know this massive, erratically organized oeuvre may seem discouraging. But giving up on the ability to know everything doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to total ignorance, either. That realization is a part of what is so welcome about Jazz at Lincoln Center’s embrace of the Sun Ra Arkestra this month. Szwed’s biography, Space is the Place, makes mention of the fact that Lincoln Center’s then-“new jazz department” considered, but ultimately did not produce, a tribute concert to Ra not long before his death. Though by doing their part, now, to include his Arkestra in our understanding of American art music, the institution is helping to realize a mystic-sounding assertion from Ra’s later years: “A true birthday is the day of your death.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sun Ra Arkestra Artyard In A Box Cover and Track List

Sun Ra ‎– Artyard In A Box
Label: ReR Megacorp ‎– SunReRBox
Format: 7 × CD, Album Box Set, Compilation, Limited Edition
 Country: UK Released: 25 May 2012
Genre: Jazz
Style: Free Jazz

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thomas Stanley's book "The Execution of Sun Ra"

Please support Thomas Stanley's Kickstarter project to publish his book "The Execution of Sun Ra," intended to be "A personal meditation and scholarly commentary on the late jazz icon's enduring contributions to the beleaguered humans of planet Earth."

James "Jac" Jacson (1932-1997) guided the author through the complex hermeneutics of Sun Ra's Cosmic Vision. Sun Ra eliminated the "k" that was once a part of Jac's name because he didn't like the "numerics" of the standard spelling.