Sun Ra

Friendly Love

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Sun Ra's brief involvement with the Impulse! jazz imprint was hastily terminated in early 1975. Subsequent to his dismissal, several projects that had never been issued were consequently returned to the artist. Whereas the other three rejected master tapes had (at the very least) working names, there are few specifics about Friendly Love's exact place in Ra's tousled discography. Some jazz scholars insist the catalog number of Saturn Records LP 564 had been designated, but attempts to locate a copy or even retrace a paper trail have been fruitless. However, there are a few things that can be presumed accurate about the origins of the actual recordings. The personnel indicates that the four extemporaneous free jazz pieces that were to be included on the long-player were documented circa 1973, although the exact location remains a subject of debate. In his wonderfully insightful liner essay in the compact disc reissue of Friendly Love -- which was piggybacked with Pathways to Unknown Worlds (1975) -- Robert L. Campbell goes behind the music, sourcing these performances as having been discovered among the materials "sent back to Sun Ra's business partner, Alton Abraham in Chicago, where [they were] stored in a box...." That is until 2000, when the indie Evidence label integrated this music as part of their ongoing effort to restore as much of Sun Ra's legacy as possible. The four sequentially titled tracks are much in keeping with the vast majority of the sounds coming from the various early- to mid-'70s incarnations of Ra's Arkestra(s). That is to say, each is independent and wholly improvised by the perpetually alternating cast of musicians, and there are obvious contributions throughout from several longtime Arkestra members. The absolute conviction and unmistakable presence of Marshall Allen is marked by his strident tenor sax runs and interjections, while Danny Thompson can be heard manipulating the somewhat baffling bassoon-derived apparatus that Ra dubbed the "Neptunian libflecto." Even more peculiar is the "space-dimension" mellophone, which is a bastardization of the traditional instrument with a retrofitted contrabassoon reed inserted into the mouthpiece. This assuredly accounts for the weightier and slightly muffled timbre. Akh Tal Ebah weaves alternately melodic and atonal interjections around Ra's sinuous, and at times understated, changes. While this is definitely not the place for the novice listener, seasoned enthusiasts will find the Arkestra interaction vacillating between mildly amusing to nothing short of spellbinding.