Sun Ra

Jazz by Sun Ra

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This essential title is also available under the moniker of Sun Song (1956). Regardless of its name, this long player contains some of Sun Ra's most complex but most accessible efforts. Ra had been an active performer since the late 1940s, recording with his various combos or "Arkestra(s)," as he dubbed them. Since this was the first widely distributed platter that the artist cut, it is often erroneously referred to as his debut. The tracks were documented by then-unknown Tom Wilson. If the name rings a bell, it may be because Wilson would go on to produce such rock luminaries as Frank Zappa, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground, among others. Ra's highly mathematical approach to bop was initially discounted by noted jazz critic Nat Hentoff as "repetitious," with phrases "built merely on riffs with little development." In retrospect, however, it is obvious there is much more going on here. Among the musical innovations woven into the uptempo "Brainville" and "Transition," are advanced time signatures coupled with harmonic scales based on Ra's mathematical equations. Not to be missed is the lush elegance within the delicate, if not intricate arrangements heard on "Possession," as well as the equally involved "Sun Song" -- both of which take on an air of sophistication in their deceptive simplicity. Ra's original LP jacket comments can be found within the liner notes of the Sun Song compact disc. This is noteworthy as one of the rare occasions that Sun Ra sought to explain not only his influences, but his methods of composition and modes of execution as well. Jazz is arguably the most accessible work in the Sun Ra catalog, as well as one of the most thoroughly and repeatedly listenable. [This release was remastered and co-produced by Michael D. Anderson (of the Sun Ra Music Archive) and Irwin Chusid, under the auspices of Sun Ra LLC, the heirs of the late music legend. Original session tapes were used when available and sound quality should surpass all previous CD/digital editions.]

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