JJ 03/72: Sun Ra – The Solar-Myth Approach 

Fifty years ago, Barry McRae set aside the intergalactic mumbo jumbo in the sleeve note to enjoy some really exciting items. First published in Jazz Journal in March 1972


Sun Ra is now totally committed to elec­tronically-induced sound and his writing and soloing is dominated by it. Surprisingly his horns and percussion accommodate this development completely. Space still plays an important part in his music but on this parti­cular album there is the odd moment when the leader does not deploy all of his troops to the full. On Bugs Hunter, in particular, several stand idle when a more complete commitment seems called for.

As with all Sun Ra albums, however, there are really exciting items. The Realm Of Light­ning features the brilliant wordless vocal talents of Jenkins. As on the 1964 Solar Differentials he comes on like a plunger trombone but with a wistful humanity that is genuinely unique. His two contributions to this track sandwich a dense percussion sec­tion that is built up with Sun Ra’s inevitable concern for the relationship between the many different timbres available to him.

Spectrum is a gentle tone poem with a grainy high-register solo from, I suspect, Marshall Allen. Seen III is a showcase for the leader on both piano and Moog, while Legend is a typically intricate band effort. It opens with unaccom­panied brass counterpoint which leads to an all-in, during which the various horns swirl about in a tapestry of sound. The leader’s Moog plays a dominant role in the group part and this precipitates an incredibly fleet solo of real originality.

Ignoring the slightly aimless quality of Bugs Hunter and the corny vocal unison on The Satellites, this is another good Sun Ra album. We have come to expect the odd moments of musical exaggeration from Sun Ra as well as the intergalactic mumbo jumbo in the sleeve note. What sets him apart from most of his contemporary big band leaders is that his music is a truly personal statement as well as being constantly challenging. Despite the re­cord of unrequited rehearsal that the band once boasted, it seems to me that this remarkable man writes his themes first, then relates them to whatever sideman he thinks appropriate.

Spectrum; Realm Of Lightning; The Satellites Are Spinning (20¼ min) – Legend; Seen III, Took 4; They’ll Come Back; Adventures Of Bugs Hunter (23½ min)
Kwame Hadi (tpt); Ahk Tal Ebah (tpt/mellophone); AM Hassan (tbn); Charles Stevens (tbn); Marshall Allen (alt/ oboe/flt/picc); Danny Davis (alt/clt/flt); John Gilmore (ten/ perc); Danny Thompson (bari/flt); Pat Patrick (bari/fit): James Jacson (oboe/flt/ancient Egyptian infinity drum); Sun Ra (pno/Moog/space-master/clavinet); Ronnie Boykins (bs); Clifford Jarvis (perc); Lex Humphries (perc); Nimrod Hunt (hand dm); June Tyson (vcl); Art Jenkins (vcl). NY, 1970/71.
(BYG529 340 £2.40)