The Human Arts Ensemble, led by drummer Charles Bobo Shaw, was one of the central performing groups to emerge from the Black Artist Group (BAG), a musician's organization founded in St. Louis in the early '70s. In addition to Shaw, this recording features two other fine musicians who would make their mark, Marty Ehrlich and J.D. Parran, as well as guest appearances by trumpeter Lester Bowie and altoist Oliver Lake. The two side-long pieces follow roughly the same model. "A Lover's Desire" uses a theme based on an Afghanistani folk melody with an added very funky bassline to serve as a platform for uninhibited improvisation. The improv is more collective than individual with voices surfacing unpredictably and the beguiling melodic riff coming forward from time to time to act as glue lest things get too far out of hand. Parran's bass clarinet work is especially luscious on this piece. The other composition, James Marshall's "Hazrat, the Sufi," also has a Middle Eastern tinge, but here the rhythmic drive fragments into a series of stop and start improvisations more akin to some of the spacier Art Ensemble of Chicago explorations and almost as impressive. Under the Sun is an enjoyable, wildly free, and loose session, and one that should appeal to any fan of the AACM and its descendents.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick