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Free Jazz & Avant-Garde - Released September 22, 2014 | Strut

Distinctions Sélection JAZZ NEWS - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
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Free Jazz & Avant-Garde - Released November 25, 2016 | Strut

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
The immense output of Sun Ra and his many backing bands, coupled with the limited production of many of his releases has long defied dedicated collectors. Parallel to a vast list of LP releases, Sun Ra released numerous 45 RPM singles; one-off meteorites from his prolific cosmic journey. Working closely with Sun Ra LLC and Art Yard Records, it is with great pride that Strut presents a definitive collection of the rare singles released by Sun Ra across his illustrious career, spanning 1952 to 1991. Released prolifically during the 1950s and more sporadically thereafter, primarily on the Saturn label, the 45s trace the development of Sun Ra’s forward-thinking “Space-Bop” and his unique take on jazz and blues traditions which remains unlike anything else from the period. As with his LPs, most 45s were only pressed in small runs and have since become extremely rare and sought after. Some have only been discovered in physical form in recent years; some were planned and penciled but allegedly never made it to vinyl and some appeared as one-off magazine singles and posthumous releases.
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Jazz - Released March 16, 2018 | Strut

Of Abstract Dreams contains four compositions recorded by Sun Ra & His Arkestra sometime during the mid-'70s, presumably at the studios of University of Philadelphia radio station WXPN, decades before they changed their format and discarded much of their recorded archive. The lineup varies from track to track, but Arkestra regulars such as Marshall Allen, Danny Ray Thompson, and percussionist Atakatune contribute to all of the pieces, and Eddie Thomas drums throughout. All of the tracks are generally carefree, joyous, and free-flowing, filled with handclaps, spirited vocals, and loosely swinging rhythms. Nobody played bass on these sessions, so they all retain a spacy, untethered quality, but Ra's harmonious piano playing keeps things moving along. "New Dawn" is the most obscure piece here, and it's easily the most experimental, as well as the most abrasive, with scorching sax eruptions from several Arkestra members. A playful rendition of bluesman Lacy Gibson's "I'm Gonna Unmask the Batman" includes gruff lead vocals from James Jacson, and ends up with a sudden cosmic burst from the group. Best of all is an extended take on "I'll Wait for You," an Arkestra concert staple that also featured in the film Space Is the Place. Instead of being sung/recited by June Tyson, however, it's delivered by Atakatune, Jacson, and Ra himself. Balancing an outer-space glide with more freewheeling firepower from the musicians, as well as a sense of celestial longing to the lyrics, it's a prime example of why Ra's strange, abstract music is so powerful. ~ Paul Simpson
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Jazz - Released April 2, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

In the late '50s, Sun Ra emerged from big band to modern/progressive big band status, began to employ electronics, and used a more Afro-Centric percussive focus. This recording perfecly demonstrates those qualities, and more. There are several definitive themes from The Arkestra included, such as "Plutonian Nights," "Nubia," "Africa," "Watusa" and "Aethiopia." Dig for this one on vinyl from the Impulse LP reissue if you can (the cover art is stunning,) but it is nigh impossible to find on Saturn Research. If not, the Evidence CD combined with "Angels & Demons At Play" (containing the original graphics) will suffice. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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Jazz - Released April 1, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

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Jazz - Released November 13, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

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Jazz - Released May 16, 2016 | Strut

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Jazz - Released April 1, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

Featuring the Astro Infinity Arkestra, Atlantis reveals two very distinct sides of Sun Ra's music. The first consists of shorter works Ra presumably constructed for presentation on the Hohner clavinet. Not only is the electric keyboard dominantly featured, but also it presumably offered Ra somewhat of a novelty as it had only been on the market for less than a year. The second side consists of the epic 21-minute title track and features an additional seven-man augmentation to the brass/woodwind section of the Astro Infinity Arkestra. Tracks featuring the smaller combo reveal an almost introspective Arkestra. The stark contrast between the clavinet -- which Ra dubbed the "Solar Sound Instrument" -- and the hand-held African congas on "Mu" and "Bimini" reveal polar opposite styles and emphasis. However, Ra enthusiasts should rarely be surprised at his experiments in divergence. "Mu" is presented at a lethargic tempo snaking in and around solos from Ra and a raga-influenced tenor sax solo from John Gilmore. "Bimini" is actually captured in progress. The first sound listeners hear is the positioning of the microphone as a conga fury commences in the background. Likewise, on "Yucatan (Impulse Version)" a doorbell quickly impedes what might have been a more organic conclusion to the performance. The original issue of Atlantis was on the small independent Saturn label. Thus the composition titled "Yucatan (Saturn Version)" appeared on that pressing. When the disc was reissued in 1973 on Impulse!, the track was replaced by a completely different composition -- as opposed to an alternate performance of the same work. The second side contains one of Ra's most epic pieces, which is free or "space" jazz at its most invigorating. While virtually indescribable, the sonic churnings and juxtaposed images reveal a brilliant display of textures and tonalities set against an ocean of occasional rhythms. Its diversity alone makes this is an essential entry in the voluminous Sun Ra catalog. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Jazz - Released January 4, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

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Jazz - Released April 3, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

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Jazz - Released April 2, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

Fate in a Pleasant Mood, recorded in 1960, finds the Arkestra at the very end of their Chicago days. The tunes still have that '50s Arkestra sound (great horn arrangements, prominent tympani), although there is an increasing use of dissonance and the arrangements are more spare, thanks to a dwindling Arkestra. Ra sticks to piano on these tracks, with excellent flute contributions from Marshall Allen and some fine trumpet as well, mostly courtesy of Phil Cohran. Gilmore shines on "Ankhnaton" and "Distant Stars." Most of the tunes still have strong ties to bop and swing, although "Space Mates" and "Kingdom of Thunder" point the way to a percussion-led sound that would be further explored after the band relocated to New York. [Now available paired with When Sun Comes Out on the Evidence label.] ~ Sean Westergaard
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Jazz - Released June 12, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

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Jazz - Released June 6, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

Sun Ra's synthesizer, organ, and electric keyboard playing were probably the most underrated elements of his arsenal. Ra's piano and electronic keyboard journeys were often viewed as gimmicky, clowning, or musically illiterate ramblings. The remarkable phrases, rhythms, progressions, statements, and solos he offers throughout this 11-cut late-'60s and early-'70s session are a tribute to his understanding of the Moog synthesizer's possibilities and options. Ra's inclusion of soulful themes, vocals and African and Afro-Latin rhythms, along with arrangements that sometimes swing and other times jut or slash, is compelling, unpredictable, and wonderful. ~ Ron Wynn
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Jazz - Released January 25, 2019 | Cosmic Myth Records

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Jazz - Released April 8, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

When Sun Comes Out is one of the first recordings after the Arkestra relocated to New York City late in 1961. This change of location also marked a change in overall sound. The New York period saw Ra focusing far more on percussion backdrops as opposed to horn arrangements (virtually everyone on the album gets a percussion credit), and everything from the percussion to the horn solos to Ra's piano playing took a more aggressive stance. John Gilmore's tenor solo on "Calling Planet Earth" throws the bop rule book out the window, and he is heard developing a more extended vocabulary of skronks and squeals. This track exemplifies the change in sound and focus from the Chicago days to the legendary days at the Composers' Workshop, where much of the Arkestra's '60s output was recorded. The band had use of the space throughout the day, and drummer Tommy "Bugs" Hunter was recruited to record the band more often than drumming. A steady rehearsal space and the ability to record Arkestra rehearsals surely helped lead Sun Ra down this more experimental path. When Sun Comes Out is a first glimpse into an era that would culminate in some of the Arkestra's most renowned recordings. (Now available paired with Fate in a Pleasant Mood on the Evidence label.) ~ Sean Westergaard
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Jazz - Released March 23, 2018 | Cosmic Myth Records

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Jazz - Released October 24, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

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Jazz - Released January 25, 2015 | Enterplanetary Koncepts

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This release was remastered and co-produced by Michael D. Anderson (of the Sun Ra Music Archive) and Irwin Chusid, under the auspices of Sun Ra LLC, the heirs of the late music legend. Original session tapes were used when available and sound quality should surpass all previous CD/digital editions. ~ Rovi Staff
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Jazz - Released April 28, 2014 | Enterplanetary Koncepts