Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Space Research Arkestra

Out in Space

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Right out of the gate, it should be stated that enthusiasts of Sun Ra will be well-served by this CD reissue of It's After the End of the World (1971). Out in Space (1998) can also be found as the second disc in a two-fer, paired up with the equally engaging Black Myth (1998). Here, Ra is joined by an impressive lineup of his Intergalactic Research Arkestra. Among the two dozen members are familiar names such as Marshall Allen (alto sax/flute/piccolo/oboe/percussion), Danny Davis (alto sax/flute/clarinet), John Gilmore (tenor sax/percussion/vocals), Pat Patrick (alto sax/tenor sax/bassoon/clarinet/bass clarinet/flute/percussion), Danny Thompson (alto sax/bassoon/bass clarinet), Eloe Omoe (bassoon/bass clarinet), James Jacson (oboe/flute/percussion), Nimrod Hunt (hand percussion/drums), and last, but certainly not least of all, June Tyson (vocals/dance). Other less conspicuous performers, on CD at least, were dancers Ife Tayo and Math Samba (African percussion/dance), as well as Roger Aralamon Hazoumé, who is credited with playing the African instrument the balafon, as well as dancing and fire eating. The expansive opening title track -- which clocks in at over half-an-hour -- may seem like untrained improvisation or free jazz. Upon closer inspection, however, the intended progression of both the melody and rhythms begin to emerge. There is quite a bit of sound to soak in and that is perfect for those Sun Ra aficionados who enjoy an active (as opposed to the typically passive) listening experience. The strings and horns during the "Discipline Series" sequence is breathtaking. The harmonics and chord changes reveal one of Sun Ra's most underrated talents -- that of a highly advanced arranger. "Walking on the Moon" (no, not the Police song of the same name) shows a funkier side to the combo, replete with lead vocals by Tyson. It evolves into a powerful free for all before yielding to a Ra clavinet solo. Ra then recites a very short piece -- titled "Outer Space Where I Came From" -- comparing and contrasting his "home planet" to that of earth. Fans of the high-energy Sun Ra standard "Watusa" are in for a real treat as the number packs a dizzying wallop in just over two minutes. Tyson and Ra's introductory chant on "Myth Versus Reality" give way to a full-blown Arkestra onslaught. Between these thick dins of sound are interjections from Ra, the brass section, and the percussionists -- especially hand drums -- who continue their unrelenting rhythmic pursuits. The compact "Theme of the Stargazers" lands into the concluding "Space Chants Medley" and a far too brief, almost throwaway encore of "We Travel the Spaceways."

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