Monday, December 28, 2009

Sun RA - Sun Song 1956

Sun RA - Sun Song 1956
1967 Lp Issue DS-411


The late pianist/bandleader/composer Sun Ra was one of the earliest musicians to embrace the jazz avant-garde, and some credit him as being a point of origin for it. Be that it may, SUN SONG is one of the Ra's earliest and most accessible albums. Recorded in the mid-1950s and consisting mostly of Ra originals, SUN features a combination of Monk-like minimalism, pretty melodies, unusual harmonies and rhythms, and concise soloing. Not nearly as free-sounding as his post-1960 recordings, SUN SONG is highly recommended to those new to Sun Ra and even to modern/progressive jazz.

Originally issued as Jazz By Sun Ra in 1956, Sun Song was the first long-player to feature the enigmatic bandleader. However, his various bands -- or "Arkestras" as Ra proclaimed them -- had been issuing 78 and 45 rpms since the mid '50s. This recording initiated a much larger audience to the multifarious and otherwise logical post-bop rhythms of one of jazz's most notorious and equally respected figures. The sides which comprise Sun Song were recorded on July 12, 1956 by Tom Wilson, who would go on to produce such rock luminaries as Frank Zappa, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground, among others. Wilson's use of Chicago's premier Universal Recording Studio accounts for the amazing crispness and attention to nuance omnipresent throughout the disc. Ra's highly arithmetical approach to bop was initially discounted by noted jazz critic Nat Hentoff as "repetitious" with phrases which were "built merely on riffs with little development." In retrospect, however, it is obvious there is much more going on here. Among the musical innovations woven into compositions, such as the up-tempo "Brainville" and "Transition," are advanced time signatures coupled with harmonic scales based on Ra's mathematical equations. The intricate harmonies and complicated arrangements on "Possession" and "Sun Song" are inspiring in their deceptive simplicity. Text originally featured in a booklet accompanying Jazz By Sun Ra is reproduced in the CD liner notes booklet. This is noteworthy as one of the rare occasions upon which he sought to explain not only his influences, but his methods of composition and modes of execution as well. This may well be the most accessible work in Sun Ra's massive catalogue. It is likewise one of the most beautiful.
By Lindsay Planer.
Sun Ra- (Piano, Electric Piano, Organ);
James Scales- (Alto Sax);
John Gilmore- (Tenor Sax, Percussion);
Pat Patrick- (Baritone Sax, Bells);
David Young, Arthur Hoyle- (Trumpet, Bells)
Julian Priester- (Trombone, Chimes);
Wilburn Green- (Electric Bass, Bass Guitar, Tambourine);
Robert Barry- (Drums, Bells);
Richard Evans- (Drums);
James Herndon- (Timbales, Timpani, Bells);
Jim Herndon- (Timpani, Percussion).
A1. Brainville   4:29
A2. Call for All Demons   4:30
A3. Transition   3:40
A4. Possession   5:00
A5. Street Named Hell   3:55
B1. Lullaby for Realville   4:40
B2. Future   3:15
B3. New Horizons   3:05
B4. Fall Off the Log   4:00
B5. Sun Song   3:40

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