The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 2

Sun Ra

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The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 2 Review

by Lindsay Planer

Although the "Vol. 2" in the title insinuates some degree of continuity with its predecessor, this is a bit of a misnomer as the only acknowledged connection with The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 1 (the volume number only indicating the order in which they were issued). Due in part to the wider exposure and distribution of the ESP label, enthusiasts and critics were unanimous in their recognition of this masterpiece of free jazz -- or, as Ra called it, "space jazz." The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 2 is comprised of three unique compositions: "The Sun Myth," "A House of Beauty," and "Cosmic Chaos." Sun Ra's work with an ensemble often presents a stated emphasis on the percussive nature of solos as well as within the group context. The underlying freeform anti-structure allows defining contrasts that ultimately establish the progressing sonic sculpture. "The Sun Myth" showcases Ra's definitive capabilities to guide his assembled musicians from anywhere within said group. He is heard on this recording initiating improvisational exchanges on tuned bongos -- for a portion of the track -- rather than from his customary keyboards. The resulting interactions include mesmerizing bass solos from Ronnie Boykins as well as some impassioned alto sax work from Marshall Allen. Directly contrasting the works that surround it is "A House of Beauty." The emphasis shifts, juxtaposing Allen's unfettered piccolo solos with Ra on piano and Robert Cumming on bass clarinet. Of particular note here are Ra's achingly lyrical piano runs and chord progressions, which weave between the light percussion beds and the dominant woodwind section. "Cosmic Chaos" is the final and most archetypal of the ensemble works that Ra and his various Arkestras would produce throughout the '60s. The extended piece begins with rush upon rush of aggressive counterpoint, building into unreserved group crescendos that are likewise punctuated by various woodwind soloists.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Sun Ra 17:53 Amazon
2 Sun Ra 04:49 Amazon
3 Sun Ra 14:48 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick