SUN RA / “Sun Ra Classics and Standards”
One way to think of Sun Ra is as an avant garde Duke Ellington. Just as with Duke, Ra’s orchestra was his primary instrument. I have included three versions of “Prelude To A Kiss” not simply because this Duke Ellington song was a Sun Ra favorite, but rather to demonstrate how Sun Ra was constantly changing and developing his music. Even when he played the same song, there was never any boredom, never any perfunctory playing. There was always something fresh going on with Sun Ra arrangements and performances. Moreover Ra was a prolific composer and easily recorded over a hundred albums. Add to this Sun Ra’s solar mythology and you get one of the great mythic figures of modern jazz. I was blessed to see him perform many times under numerous conditions at a wide variety of venues: from a riverboat in New Orleans blowing the minds of a captive audience (we were literally drifting on the river with no way to escape the hurricane sonics of Sun Ra), to an outdoor concert in a Philadelphia park where I stood next to Rahsaan Roland Kirk marveling at the music. At one point during a brass solo, Kirk was trying to figure out how the French horn player was producing a certain whoosing sound. Kirk’s wife explained that the soloist had loosened the valves on the horn and instead of pressing down on the valve plungers was actually pulling the valves in and out of the sockets. Ah, Sun Ra. I could go on and on conveying Sun Ra tales: light shows, dancers, saxophone players laying on their backs taking solos, the whole orchestra singing Mickey Mouse songs, and so forth and so on. Herman Poole Blount, the man who became Sun Ra, was born May, 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama. Specific details of Sun Ra’s development are shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. By the fifties he had taken up residence in Chicago and formed the nucleus of his Arkestra, which continued to perform even after Sun Ra’s death in May of 1993. Typical of the contradictions in which he reveled, Sun Ra was both a fierce disciplinarian as well as a zealous advocate of free jazz. He was the first jazz musician to make extensive use of electronic keyboards and experimental instruments, orchestrations and methodologies. This Mixtape, however, focuses on a lesser known aspect of Sun Ra’s body of work. In the middle of way out space music, Ra would often drop gems from all eras of jazz. Stride piano and swing compositions right next to interplanetary sonic escapades. Standards and originals bumping heads. Serious, hour long compositions next to interpretations of Walt Disney cartoon tunes. I always enjoy the spirit of joy that ran throughout Sun Ra’s music. Whereas most people associated avant garde music with wierdness and seriousness, every Sun Ra concert had huge helpings of humor. His music made you feel good. This Mixtape focuses on Sun Ra’s interpretation of classics and standards: everything from Duke Ellington and George Gerswhin to a trio of selections from Sun Ra’s Walt Disney trip. There is no need to say anything more except: smile, laugh, enjoy Sun Ra. —Kalamu ya Salaam Sun Ra Classics and Standards Mixtape Playlist 01 “Yeah Man” – Live at The Hackney Empire 02 “Take The A Train” – Sunrise In Different Dimensions Holiday For Soul Dance 03 “I Loves You, Porgy” 04 “Body And Soul” 05 “Prelude To A Kiss” – A Night In East Berlin Blue Delight 06 “Out Of Nowhere” 07 “Days Of Wine And Roses” 08 “Gone With The Wind” 09 “Stars Fell On Alabama” – Purple Night 10 “Prelude To A Kiss” – Live At Pitt Inn Tokyo 11 “Prelude To A Kiss” – Live at The Hackney Empire 12 “Smile” – Nuclear War 13 “Flamingo” – The Other Side Of The Sun Second Star To The Right: Salute To Walt Disney 14 “Zip a Dee Doo Dah” 15 “Someday My Prince Will Come” 16 “Whistle While You Work”
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