Sun Ra

Nothing Is

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Sun Ra and his Arkestra issued only a handful of titles on the groundbreaking indie ESP-Disk' label. Each title respectively contains some of their most expressive musical statements to date. The eight cuts on Nothing Is (1970) were documented during live performances at various New York State colleges in the spring of 1966. Ra (piano/clavioline) leads the band through a series of free improvisations and more melodically structured compositions. "Dancing Shadows" evolves out of a chaotic brass and percussive assault with some extended inspired keyboard runs during the opening. These eventually nestle into a charming upbeat slice of extemporaneous post-bop. Front and center beside Ra are Ali Hassan (trombone), Teddy Nance (trombone), Marshall Allen (alto sax/flute/piccolo/oboe), John Gilmore (tenor sax), Pat Patrick (baritone sax/flute), Robert Cummings (baritone clarinet), James Jacson (flute/log drums), Ronnie Boykins (bass/tuba), Clifford Jarvis (drums), and Carl Nimrod (aka Carl S. Malone/Nimrod Hunt) (sun horn/gong). The leader's solos and accompaniment shimmer with many of the same highly advanced effervescent chord progressions incorporated onto early sides such as "Brainville" or "Transitions." Gilmore, Allen and Patrick playfully blend Eastern-flavored intonations along with Jarvis and a second, albeit uncredited, kit drummer. According to Sun Ra scholars, both Jimmy Johnson, Jr. (drums) and Roger Blank (drums) toured at various times during the mid-'60s with the Arkestra. "Imagination" includes a brief recitation followed by a full-blown band improv. This undulates over a fast-paced choral mantra of "the second stop is Jupiter" -- a chant which had also been worked into the waning moments of "Rocket #9." The slithery charm of "Exotic Forest" -- featuring a hypnotic oboe lead from Allen -- excels in allowing the mostly percussive contingency of the Arkestra to organically support Boykins equally entrancing contributions. The short piano solo "Sun Ra and His Band from Outer Space" segues into the last lengthy side, "Shadow World." Patrick streamlines his opening solo around the sonic swirl of Jarvis and Ra. The saxophonist then emerges with an unaccompanied blow that demonstrates his perfection in the context of spontaneity. Allen follows with a solitary oboe that borders on maniacal before eventually settling into a final free for all from the entire band. Nothing Is concludes with a mostly Ra driven "Theme of the Stargazers" which develops into an early version of the "Outer Spaceways Incorporated" and "Next Stop Mars" chants. Caveat emptor: these sides have turned up on numerous repackagings, many of which have been transcribed from poor-grade vinyl. [The 2005 ESP-Disk' contains three added tracks.]

blue highlight denotes track pick