Some Ra

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Billed to Rake-Star, this album is in fact the follow-up to Rake's debut CD released by Spool in 2000. And it marks a giant leap forward for the trio. Then again, Some Ra is a special project. Recorded live in Ottawa (Canada) on April 6, 2003, it features a 16-piece big band version of Rake paying tribute to the Sun Ra Arkestra. The group includes a dancer and a singer, and judging from the pictures in the booklet, the event was as colorful and raucous as Sun Ra's genuine concerts. The set list includes plenty of Sun Ra's compositions, alongside original tunes mostly penned by Rake's leader and the mastermind behind this project, trombonist Rory Magill. The group comprises talented musicians, for the most part unknown outside the Ottawa area. The horn line is crowded, so is the double-bass section (three). Other instruments include an accordion, a guitar, and singer Gaby Warren, who delivers a sweet-and-sour rendition of "I Dream Too Much," the disc's weak point. The group sound is thin on percussion, but that doesn't really have an impact on the energy of the music. The group's originals sit very well with Sun Ra's classics, and the arrangements are respectful of the spirit of the Arkestra. Highlights include the medley "Somewhere in Space/Angels and Demons at Play," where trumpeter Clyde Forsberg delivers a Lester Bowie-esque solo, and the medley "Cobalt/Satellites Are Spinning," the first piece being penned by sax player David Broscoe and serving as a delightfully spacy introduction. "Journey to Rakestar/Love in Outer Space" also provides a wonderful moment, thanks to creative arrangements and a good groove. Sound quality is very fine: the ensemble is spread across the stereo spectrum; each instrument is easy to isolate. Fans of Sun Ra should definitely investigate -- this is not just another tribute, it's a pretty fine one, and coming from a little-known jazz scene.

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