Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Sun Ra with Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold (Enterplanetary Koncepts, 2018)

This particular Sun Ra album is notable for the inclusion of the soon to be famous tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders (temporarily replacing Arkestra regular John Gilmore) and the enigmatic Black Harold (Harold Murray) who played flute and log drum. There's some debate about the date and location (and personnel) of this live recording with this issue listing it as taking place on December 31, 1964 at Judson Hall in New York City. A partial recording was released in 1976 on Sun Ra's Saturn Label, and ESP released a version of the concert in 2009. Regardless, Ra leads a fifteen piece band as part of “Four Days in December” for the ill-fated Jazz Composers Guild. Poor sound quality is the thing that holds this release back the most, because there are some real highlights of powerful music to be found here. The massive near twenty minute long track "The Other Worlds" is key, which includes a fiery overblown Sanders solo and a lengthy interlude for several band members in percussion. The horns are loud and brash, and the weight of the crushing percussion is palpable, and must have been overwhelming in person, because Ra usually had everyone who wasn't playing add in percussive sound making this overwhelming cacophony. The chant of "Second Stop is Jupiter" is off mic, but the horns are fresh, followed by "The Now Tomorrow" with a section for piano and flutes, quiet and spare followed by bowed bass and reeds with raw rumbling piano leading to great audience applause. "Discipline 9" finds Ra on alone on piano, before the horns blend in yearning layers of saxophone and subtle percussion enters and the band takes up the "We Travel the Spaceways" chant in a slow laconic manner. The music stretches out in a lush and dreamlike manner, hypnotic or narcotic, a prelude to psychedelica, before the band shakes to life with a horn fanfare and cogent conclusion. The leader opens "The Shadow World" with medium tempo piano, sounding quite beautiful as the band fills in and the heavy percussion and horns make things most exciting. They really lift off as the band takes to the sky in a roiling free improvisation with a great Sanders solo showing his nascent power and there's a trumpet feature over rumbling drums and percussion leading into the "Rocket Number 9" space chant. Ra throws down some fast and intricate piano playing, instigating the drum and percussion section to take flight in a thrilling blowout. They follow with some distinctly atmospheric performances, "The Voice of Pain" where echoey and shrill flute meets bass in an arresting manner with drums and hand percussion. Shrieks of flute and some adjoining reeds could be seen as an a analogue for pain, and the following track, "Dawn over Israel" continues the contemplative mood with chimes, bowed bass and low toned reeds. Ra enters playing melodic rippling notes, that shower down then turn into a storm of thunderous bass chords. Sun Ra with Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold -

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