Dancing Shadows

Sun Ra

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Dancing Shadows Review

by Lindsay Planer

Dancing Shadows is a mid-'80s German bootleg disc gathering material that had been recorded some two decades earlier for the ESP-Disk indie label. It should also be noted that the same eight sides can be found as both Nothing Is (1970) and the somewhat erroneous Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. 3 (1966). In terms of the contents, the cuts were documented at various stops on the Arkestra's 1966 spring tour of state universities of New York. The instrumental free jazz improvisations surrounding the more discernible melodies from Ra (piano/clavioline) and company serve as the primary impetus for this collection. From out of the free-for-all introduction "Dancing Shadows," Ra's keyboards are incisive and direct as he rides the band into a swinging and inventive jam sporting the same brand of advanced arrangements and tricky time signatures that are associated with the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Thelonious Monk. Longtime Arkestra stalwarts Marshall Allen (alto sax/flute/piccolo/oboe), John Gilmore (tenor sax), and Pat Patrick (baritone sax/flute) entwine their Eastern-influenced interjections and effuse interaction over the solid rhythm section of Ronnie Boykins (bass/tuba), Clifford Jarvis (drums), Carl Nimrod [aka Carl S. Malone/Nimrod Hunt] (sun horn/gong), and James Jacson (flute/log drums). While no traditional drum kit performers are credited, they are evident throughout. Sandwiched between "Dancing Shadows" and "Exotic Forest" is the spoken or (perhaps more accurately) chanted chorus of "the second stop is Jupiter." Keen-eared enthusiasts might recall this extract, which hails from "Rocket #9." There is an entrancing and almost intoxicating quality to "Exotic Forest." Allen's oboe solo is bound to some equally heady percussive expressions. This release can be recommended for this track alone, as it exemplifies the unquestionable beauty that the Arkestra created from seeming sonic chaos. After "Sun Ra and His Band from Outer Space" -- a brief piano solo interlude -- the final extended piece is "Shadow World." Here, Patrick's opening solo is met head-on with a hard-hitting and edgy assault from Allen on oboe. This eventually leads into a full Arkestra meltdown prior to Ra's "Theme of the Stargazers" and a final chorus of "Next Stop Mars" -- another spoken/sung chant. The audio quality of this specific incarnation is less than favorable when compared to either of the previously mentioned releases Nothing Is or Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. 3 -- both of which are available on CD. All manner of free jazz fans are encouraged to locate Dancing Shadows, as it provides an unabashed glimpse into what makes this era of the Arkestra so highly lauded among listeners.

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