Monday, March 18, 2019

Sun Ra - Pathways to Unknown Worlds (Modern Harmonic, 2019)

Pathways to Unknown Worlds was one of the albums that eventually came through on a highly anticipated deal with ABC/Impulse that was doomed to fail. Released in a truncated format in the early 1970's with less then thirty minutes of music, this reissue presents restored tracks and additional selections from the session that was recorded in New York City in 1973. It's also the full Arkestra of the period with Ra playing a raft of electronic keyboards and featuring a horn section anchored by stalwarts John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, anchored by Ronnie Boykins on bass and Clifford Jarvis on drums. "Pathways To Unknown Worlds," the title track is a spacey Ra special, with the leader playing Yamaha YC-45D combo organ which allowed increased pitch and tone control, making this a long and droning space jazz track with bowed bass and mellophone, giving the music an unusual and fascinating sound. “Extension Out” has it's complete version on record for the first time, including the opening five and a half minutes that were inexplicably culled from the Impulse version. It's a wonderful performance, allowing the saxophonists to really stretch out with Danny Davis joining Marshall Allen on alto saxophone for raw and exciting solos and duos, as the band rumbles beneath them, and bass clarinet and oboe add further color to this vivid and exploratory performance. The last two tracks on this album originally came out on the Of Mythic Worlds LP, included here because they were recorded at the same session. “Intrinsic Energies” develops long tones of shimmering keyboard, drums and percussion, soon joined by stark and wrenched horns which play out over the sound stage, with ripe alto saxophone tart and citrus against the pastel toned keyboards. The juxtaposition of raw reeds and subtle keyboards is especially moving, while stoic bass (Ronnie Boykins in the secret sauce on this whole album) and drums keeps the music from flying off into infinity. Really interesting textures of percussion are at play on "Of Mythic Worlds,” with jabs of Ra's space organ and wonderful tenor saxophone playing from the incomparable John Gilmore. Seriously, imagine and organ and tenor jam session that instead of a Prestige blowing date (nothing wrong with those, mind you) it's a Sun Ra and John Gilmore free jazz blowout, and it's just as remarkable as you can imagine. After that mindblower, Ra takes a skittish caterwauling solo with wonderful bass support, before handing back off to the horn players who carry the group to a righteous conclusion. Pathways To Unknown Worlds - amazon.com

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