Dance of the Living Image

Sun Ra

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Dance of the Living Image Review

by Michael G. Nastos

This fourth two-CD volume of lost reel-to-reel rehearsal sessions from Sun Ra, done in the vicinity of San Francisco in December of 1974, continues to reveal the inner workings and unpolished, raw dynamics of a band playing with material that in the '70s would garner them an audience unique to jazz, progressive rock, or the then emerging jazz-rock fusion movement. What you hear is Ra incorporating all of those elements for future usage in larger arenas to a bigger audience that was not bound to strict convention, and hungry for new and old music combined. This is what Sun Ra did best. Though in most instances ragged, unfinished, and stopped at will, you hear the enfolded music as encouraged by Ra's verbal suggestions and democratic bandsmanship. You do hear the thin sound and distant cues and wowed tape, but also the laughter and good feeling the band shared while experimenting. It's not good radio fare, but it's interesting to any fan who might be intrigued by how the group came together, making music from scratch. The first CD has Ra on the electric rocksichord for the practice take of "Dance of the Living Image," laying out modal repeated themes, stopping and starting to get the right feeling, and stretching out. There's a dramatic, low-key, spooky, and near macabre vocal by Ra on "Sometimes I'm Happy," a raw version of what would be come a signature tune "Astro Nation" with vocal chanting, and an experiment juxtaposing melodies of "Bag's Groove" and "Footprints" with an Egyptian three-note pulse. The feature on the second CD is a 30-plus minute near drunken or stoned, fun and silly, repetitive workout of "Hard Hearted Hannah" identified by a maddeningly insistent R&B saxophone groove, repeated and eventual alternate chorus vocal line that goes on and on and incessantly on. A sweet version of "Sophisticated Lady," which may be the first recorded instance of Ra's using this rustic Duke Ellington melody, and "Watusi," a longtime familiar flute and horn section-driven 6/8 jungle theme of Ra's, but with new updated changes. Personnel info is spotty, but mainstays Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Danny Thompson, Eloe Omoe, Clifford Jarvis, and vibraphonist Damon Choice are surely in the band. A purchase for only die-hard fans and connoisseurs, it completes the package the Transparency label offers into the underground scenarios Ra worked hard to conceive and conjure before taking them to the concert stage.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Sun Ra 21:48 Amazon
Sun Ra 09:46 Amazon
Sun Ra 14:24 Amazon
Sun Ra 05:00 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick