To call it simply Jazz or Avant Garde would be a huge disservice.
"I'm not a minister, I'm not a philosopher, I'm not a politician, I'm in another category." – Sun Ra
Sun Ra, born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, AL, was possibly the most incredible Renaissance man of the 20th Century. An Afrofuturist before the word was even coined, he was at times a leftist political propagandist, a musician, a record label founder, a music producer, a screenwriter, an actor, a university instructor and someone who honestly believed, after having an epiphany sometime during the Great Depression, that he was actually a visitor from the Planet Saturn.
It took decades for people to become hip to the messages here in his home country. Often, in his early live performing career, he and his band with an ever revolving line-up, the Arkestra, were heckled and ridiculed. Starting off musically in what io what could loosely be called Free Jazz, again, before we even had a name for it, he took chances with his career that kept him a fringe artist. However, in Europe, he and his band were seen as an important part of a new type of Avant Garde music, and were often welcomed with open arms.
Sun Ra, from the film Space is the Place, directed by John Coney, 1974.
He was not without his supporters here at home, though. Dizzie Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and even Sonic Youth (the latter of whom Ra actually opened for many times) championed his music when others simply didn't get it. His prodigious output cannot be chronicled in a simple one hour program. I will be selecting five pieces, from the three distinct parts of his early recording career from the mid-1950's to the md-1970's, that illustrate that possibly this music is still miles away from even what underground acts are doing today. How many miles away? Well, at least to Saturn, and back.
Our tracks this week: Title, Year, Source
First Part: Chicago Period
1. Eve, 1956, Sun Ra and his Solar Arkestra Visits Planet Earth
2. Rocket Number Nine Take Off For The Planet Venus, 1960, Interstellar Low Ways
Second Part: New York Period
3. Adventure-Equation, recorded 1961/released 1963, Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy
4. Strings Strange, 1966, Strange Strings
Finale: Philadelphia Period
5. Space is the Place, 1973, Space Is The Place
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX