Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sun Ra – Dance of Innocent Passion (Saturn, 1980)

This live album from the Sun Ra Arkestra recorded at the Squat Theatre in New York City is well out of print and that’s a pity, because it’s one of the more interesting Ra albums of his final period. While much Ra work during the final ten years of his career saw him consolidating the advances he had made previously and exploring favorite swing era themes, this one catches an expanded Arkestra at an exploratory peak, with some blistering solo work.

This disc contains some instrumentation not normally heard in a Sun Ra album, including vibraphone, guitar and tuba. “Dance of the Innocent Passion” begins with some killer organ and synth work from Sun Ra, who creates near-orchestral soundscapes with his instruments. One of the real highlights of this album is the way-out tenor saxophone solo from John Gilmore which he takes here. The rest of the band lays out allowing him the spotlight and he makes the most of it. Gilmore plays up in the highest register of his horn and makes use of overblowing techniques to craft an outstanding and intense solo.

Finally on “Cosmo-Intensity” Ra’s synthesizer squares off with Richard Williams bowed bass in an epic duet, that is at the same time wild and musically perfect. The keep up this exchange of ideas for over twelve minutes before the band finally kicks back in, and the group improvises as a whole, bring the piece to a close. This is one of the most interesting extended improvisations in the entire Ra catalog and must be heard to be believed. You’re going to have a devil of a time hearing it though – I only got a copy through a trading network the tries to keep Sun Ra’s out of print work available to collectors. Let’s hope Evidence Records starts a new round of re-issues with this lost gem.

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