by Sun Ra
Art Yard, 2006
CD, CD 001, $26.50
Distributors Website: http://www.rerusa.com.
Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University
Sun Ra is in the air again. I was looking
at a picture of the next Mars Rover in
WIRED magazine when WCMU-FM played
Sun Ras "Discipline 47",
a song from a new 28-CD Sun Ra boxed set
(with liner notes by poet/polemicist John
Sinclair). This double-CD album issued
in Great Britain may be a bit more modest,
but its satisfying. It contains
the complete concert played in Milan,
Italy in 1978, with a small combo consisting
of Sun Ra, Luqman Ali, John Gilmore, Michael
Ray, and June Tyson.
The first disc opens with "Disco
3000". Luqman Alis perambulating
beat, where percussion does not equal
pounding, has a delicate touch. June Tyson
reminds us again that "Space is the
Place", as the beat dissolves into
John Gilmores sax then drops out
Sun Ras big paintbrush organ is
played with forearm swipes, then he noodles
a riff as goofy as Jar Jar Binks. Is the
shimmering celeste-like instrument the
Crumar Mainman he boasted of playing,
a model that even the manufacturer had
never heard of?
In this track we hear San Ras influence
on the Residents and Devo, and perhaps
Punk permitted Sun Ra to be even funnier
when the spirit so moved him. A drum fusillade
introduces Michael Rays flight-of-the-bumblebee
trumpet, met with cries of Wow. Its
willfully childish, exploratory, and to
end it, a
Bach"-style sequence riffs rippling,
constant change, echoing Kraftwerk.
"Sun of the Cosmos" has John
Gilmores tenor sax bleating, Sun
Ras ectoplasmic organ in the background.
Stuttering drums of "Geminology"
increase its edginess until Sun Ras
jagged, cubistic Dr. Mabuse piano enters,
as if to accompany a silent movie. It
all becomes an elegant shuffle beside
the Seine, sailor-suit trumpet by Michael
Ray, merry as the Douanier Rousseau with
his paintbox. Sun Ras off-kllter
piano then sets the carpenters level
"Echoes of the World" is very
pretty, and "Sky Blues" is a
fun sax-driven fish-fry blues, as New
Orleans as the hotel piano player Tuts
Washington. On the second disc, "Dance
of the Cosmo Aliens" has pulsing
Moog twiddling and palms-down organ by
Sun Ra. The drums are in their own space,
oblivious to insistent oddball, drunkenly
bluesy riffs. "Spontaneous Simplicity"
is strange rock filtered through rippling
keyboard then Michael Rays Masekela-like
trumpet, its percussion evoking helicopters
doing the cha-cha.
"Images" gives us a lovely modulated
smidgen of "Over the Rainbow"
in an arrangement suggestive of Gil Evans,
while the energetic Sun Ra appears as
the organ Master of the Drunken Fist.
In "When There is No Sun", June
Tyson sings of how the sky is sea of darkness;
we are given a space traveler as a plaintive
African-American motherless child. There
proceeds a melancholy, cosmic storm of
organ activity, drum rolls and crash cymbal.
Notes leave tracks of percolating positrons,
cosmic effects assemble, and chemical
drums carry us out of here.
A loping version of "We travel the
Spaceways" has a likeable piano solo,
group vocals over Luqman Alis shuffling
drums, and the happily spaced-out crowd