Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sun Ra – Detroit Jazz Center Residency Discs 1&2 (Transparency, 2007)

Given my Sun Ra fanboy status and my incontrovertible nerditude, it's a given that I would order a 28 CD boxed set chronicling the Man From Saturn's epic stand in Detroit from December 26th, 1980 to January 1st, 1981. I've just begun to scratch the surface on this monster, but it has already been a rewarding experience. The sound quality is surprisingly good, certainly not perfect, but far better than the bootleg quality I was expecting. Ra and the band are on fire as well, mixing his own compositions with free jazz improv and swing era nuggets for an intoxicating mix. On disc one Ra accepts the key to the city of Detroit and then proceeds to lead the band through a blasting set, focusing on riff centered swing era standards like “Queer Notions” and “Yeah Man!” which have the group sounding like a 1930's territory band. They move forward in time to the bebop era, checking a medley of “Lady Bird/Half Nelson” before blasting full bore into modern jazz/free improv with a 23 minute percussion centered “Love in Outer Space.” Disc two is more vocal centered with Ra leading the band through chants and songs, on regular tunes from his book like “Space is the Place” and “We Travel the Spaceways” before blasting off into those spaceways with some unfettered improvisations. Ra has spent most of the first two CDs on organ, and there have been several excellent solo spots for John Gilmore. It's quite a trip and I look forward to checking out the rest of the set. More updates to come.

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