Monday, November 03, 2008

Sun Ra - Secrets of the Sun (Atavistic, 2008)

Scouring the seemingly limitless depths of the Sun Ra archive, Atavistic has released this transitional album, cut when the Arkestra was in the process of moving from Chicago to New York. Maybe it was because of the transition, but this disc features a smaller lineup, consisting of some of the Ra stalwarts like John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and Ronnie Boykins on bass. The most interesting aspect of this album as a whole is the ability to hear Ra's piano in a small band context. He sounds great with his percussive technique cutting through the murky sound quality, with a near Monkian intensity. "Solar Differentials" opens with percussionist Tommy Hunter singing "space bird sounds" which are as bizarre as you can imagine, before Ra's piano leads the group into a strong improvisation. The real find on this disc is the closing 17 minute epic "Flight To Mars" which forshadows some of Ra's lengthy explorations like "Atlantis" and "The Magic City." Unreleased in any form before, this features some beautiful flute work from Marshall Allen. While this probably isn't the best place for the Ra neophyte to begin an exploration of his massive catalog, it's quite a find for the cognescenti and the Ra true believer.
Secrets of the Sun -

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