Sun Ra

Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Vol. 2

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This is the second of two 7" EPs derived from Sun Ra and his Arkestra's August 1970 run at the Nuits de la Fondation Maeght (1970). Historically noteworthy is that the Saint Paul de Vence, Côte d'Azur, France, shows marked the first time the extended aggregate would play for a European audience. Their excitement translates into what is unquestionably one of the strongest live documents to exist from this period. Many potential listeners may be initially dismayed at the seeming discord that is inherent in the free and avant-garde subgenres. For them, Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Vol. 2 might be a good starting place as it offers up a variety of styles from within the open-ended framework. "Friendly Galaxy Number 2" is a brooding and edgy mid-tempo affair, highlighted by the rhythm section's smouldering restraint beneath the alternately plaintive and sinuous wails from Alan Silva (violin). This segues into the entire Arkestra as it joins in on a carefree and buoyant "Spontaneous Simplicity." Once again, Silva shines, albeit this time on electric bass guitar. His syncopated pulsations are viscous enough to ably swaddle the aggressive percussive ensemble. On this piece, Ra's electric piano runs are among his most melodic, as he gently weaves around the well-placed chord progressions. The brass section also reasserts itself for some stellar interaction at the song's conclusion. "The World of Lightning" may have been the Arkestra's encore, judging by the rhythmic applause from the audience at the beginning of the song. After preliminary disjointed inflections from Ra's Mini Moog and John Goldsmith's percussive gong and tympani interjections, Marshall Allen (sax) provides blistering leads atop of what evolves into a full-blown and substantial Arkestra assault. This somewhat abruptly resolves into a profound, if not definitive reading of the epic "Black Myth," commencing with June Tyson's spoken "The Shadows Took Shape" and "The Strange World" recitations. The band counters with incisive precision, which trails into a ferocious bout of the Moog from Ra during the "Journey Through the Outer Darkness" movement. "Sky" is a brief concluding solo from Allen on haubois -- a predecessor to the modern-day oboe -- that cuts off mid-stream. Enthusiasts should note, both volumes of the Nuits de la Fondation Maeght were issued on CD from an excellent quality tape [read: non-vinyl] source on Comet Records in 2003.

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