Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sun Ra - Some Blues But Not the Kind That's Blue (Atavistic, 2008)

Atavistic seems to have stepped into the void left by the Evidence label, taking the lead in re-issuing CDs from the bottomless pit of Sun Ra's Saturn Records archive. This is a small spacious group, unusual for Ra who nearly always performed with a 12+ member big band or "Arkestra." But the slightly unusual instrumentation makes for some interesting textures. For this recording, the personnel consists of: Sun Ra on piano and organ, John Gilmore on tenor saxophone, Akh Tal Ebah on trumpet, Marshall Allen and Danny Davis on alto saxophone and flute, James Jackson on flute and bassoon, Eloe Omoe on bass clarinet, Richard "Radu" Williams and Ronnie Boykins on bass, Luqman Ali on drums and Atakatune on congas. Ra plays piano for the majority of the recording and it is fascinating to listen to his mix of swing influences with some jagged peaks and valleys a la Thelonious Monk. The band takes on some standards, notably "My Favorite Things" which has some very good percussive piano from Ra, and taught flute from Davis."Nature Boy" fascinates as it glides in on a bed of percussion and oboe, with Ra mysteriously intoning the melody via sketchy piano chords. For the most part the album is taken with melodic improvisation except for an untitled track where the horns are allowed to let their hair down and their free flag fly. Ra abandons the piano for the organ on a couple of version of "I'll Get By" added on at the end. While the sound quality may be a little muddy, this is yet another fascinating look into the sound world of Sun Ra. With the focus on piano and melody this is also one of the more accessible Ra CDs, and may make a good point of entry for people looking to dip their toe into these vast waters. Kudos to Atavistic for another fine job, keep the Sun Ra coming!

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