Sun Ra And His Arkestra: Jazz In Silhouette

Vinyl reissue of a 1958 session that might confound mainstream critics who think Sun Ra had nothing to do with swing


Here on limited-edition blue vinyl is the third album on which Sun Ra introduced his Arkestra to the jazz world. It featured a dream line-up of saxophonists, all of whom were given their head, particularly on the near 12-minute-long, JATP-like Blues At Midnight.

Ra famously supplied arrangements for the ailing Fletcher Henderson after the war and it should be noted that a couple of the charts he wrote for this version of his mini big band would not have sounded out of place in the 1940s. Apart from the esoteric nature of Ancient Aethopia with its chants and other worldly qualities, this is straightahead swinging music which would have far from alienated mainstream-modernists of the time.

Those who have constantly dismissed the leader as a charlatan and a purveyor of non-jazz elements at points in his career will probably be startled by the strict tempo experience of Enlightenment, which is followed by much else falling into a similar area of rhythmic consistency, The reedmen impress in their solo passages but the relatively forgotten Hobart Dotson delivers trumpet features of a quality matching his illustrious colleagues, varying from open horn to muted.

Ra himself sticks mainly to piano, the celeste (an option he would constantly turn to over the decades) introduced on occasion to add a little colour – his efforts on the former instrument ranging from the muscular to the restrained. Like Ellington, his true instrument was his band, a truism we came to recognise as the Arkestra became a fixture over the ensuing years.

The collective personnel listing comes from aural evidence that contradicts the sleeve information. I.e., a “ghost” trombonist is heard on a couple of tracks and an unidentified bass player is audible on Back In Your Own Backyard.

Enlightenment; Saturn; Velvet; Ancient Aiethopia; Hours After; Horoscope; Images; Blues At Midnight; Back In Your Own Backyard (46.41)
Collective personnel: Hobart Dodson (t, t-mouthpiece); Marshall Allen (as, f, as-mouthpiece); James Spaulding (as, f); John Gilmore (ts, pc, v): Pat Patrick (bar, f, pc); Charles Davis (bar); Bo Bailey (tu); Sun Ra (p, celeste); Ronnie Boykins (b, v); William “Bugs” Cochran (d); Robert Barry (d); Hattie Randolph (v). Chicago, 1958.
Waxtime In Color 950726