COMPOSERS: Sun Ra
ALBUM TITLE: Sun Ra and his Arkestar: In the Orbit of Ra
PERFORMER: Sun Ra and his Arkestar; Sun Ra (piano), Marshall Allen (sax) etc
If ever a jazz musician deserves a cult following it has to be Sun Ra. The jazz pianist, who died in 1993, was immersed in a unique blend of science fiction and Egyptology, claiming to have visited Earth from Saturn.
This double disc gives a snapshot of his long career ‘presented’ by long-term collaborator Marshall Allen, who at 90 still leads Ra’s band, the Arkestra. Ra’s discography includes hundreds of ad hoc albums, and this disc plucks some unreleased gems and favourites. Classics include the chant-packed ‘Rocket Nine Takes Off For Planet Venus’, or ‘Plutonian Nights’ with its growling piano, or ‘Angels and Demons at Play’, with Allen’s haunting flute. By honing swing arrangements, from his early days with Fletcher Henderson, Ra created his own extravagant, swaggeringly syncopated style. ‘The critics called us weird’, reflects Allen. ‘But they knew the music was good’. Neil McKim