Sun Ra Discography at Discogs

Sun Ra

Source: Sun Ra Discography at Discogs

This is a decent discography of Sun Ra’s recorded works, but it still doesn’t approach the detail of Robert Campbell’s The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra. At several hundred pages, it is an essential resource for any researcher or fan of Sun Ra’s music, full of session info, musicians’ credits, copyright info, etc., all indexed according to compositions, recordings, and musicians. Great stuff to geek out on.

Sun Ra All Stars and the Sun Ra Arkestra with Archie Shepp Berlin 10/291983 – YouTube

This is a fascinating performance. Sun Ra with Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Philly Jo Jones, and most of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This is textural free jazz. When Sun Ra’s piano comes in it’s thrilling. What a fantastic free piano player. I love this.

Sun Ra Arkestra – Face the Music / Space is the Place – YouTube

What do you do when you know that you know,
that you know that you’re wrong?
You’ve got to face the music,
you’ve got to listen to the cosmos song.

Two of my very favorite Sun Ra tunes on a show from the late 80s that I remember well. Check out David Sanborn. Very 80s hair and glasses.

Sun Ra himself sounds in great form. I love the fact that his comping is fairly old school even while his music is our-there avant garde. This is an inspiring performance for me.

Wynonie Harris with Sun Ra: Dig This Boogie (Bullet 78 rpm) – YouTube

Sun Ra’s stride piano playing from 1946. This is early R&B with stop-time figures, driving bass, big-band-style comping, and tasty improv. Sometimes I lose sight of just how good Sun Ra was as a piano player. Later in his career some of his playing seems almost sloppy, even given that he often incorporated free playing into his compositions. This tune is tight, for sure.

Check out this article about Sun Ra. It’s a pretty good rundown.

Sun Ra – Rocket Number Nine Take Off For The Planet Venus – YouTube

John Gilmore! What a great tenor player. He sounds like a slightly smoothened Coltrane, repeating himself with minor alterations until he has exhausted a particular line’s logic.

Not much of a composition composition – there is no real arrangement other than some stop-time figures and some free improv. The lyrics really drive the tune, leading to a big “All aboard!” – a train headed for Saturn.

Great fun live, I would imagine. This tune is part of the space chant performed on the Live in London album, strung together with a bunch of other tunes for one swinging medley of celebratory non-chaos. read more

SUN RA / Space Is The Place – YouTube

So many layers of counterpoint I almost get lost. This is definitely a chant-type composition in that it repeats the lyrics over and over while the instruments evolve into a multi-layered set of both tonal and non-tonal (bitonal? multi-tonal?) counterpoint. The baritone sax keeps the same line throughout, but the tenor and alto saxes along with the trumpets morph from straight-up big band arrangement to free improv. The bari, drums, and bass glue the whole thing together.

This tune, and others like it, were common ingredients in what Graham Lock refers to as “space chants”: medleys of space-themed tunes, strung together as part of a performance for and with the audience. Space chants often ended with a kind of second-line dance with musicians coming down off the stage to dance in front of, among, and with the audience. I have heard tell that sometimes the line would dance out the door of the club onto the street. A typical second-line performance can be seen in the Robert Mugge film A Joyful Noise. read more