Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sun Ra - Space is the Place: Music for the Film (Enterplanetary Koncepts, 2019)

In the early 1970's Sun Ra and the Arkestra were quite popular on the west coast, playing many gigs in California and points beyond and this culminated in two cultural landmarks. The University of California was under enormous pressure to diversify its classes and this led to Ra being given the opportunity to teach the course entitled Black Man in the Cosmos, the other was the Oakland based production of a feature film entitled Space is the Place. Most of the music on this album (originally released by Evidence in 1993) was not heard in the finished movie except in short clips, and confusingly, there is music in the film which is not on this album. Regardless, it is a crackling album, recorded at an unidentified San Francisco studio in early 1972 with the band in full flight, playing some of Ra's most well known tunes and some new classics as well. This is a fine edition of the Arkestra with Ra armed with a battery of electronic keyboards, and flanked by lifers Marshall Allen on alto saxophone, John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and June Tyson on vocals. Tyson is really the linchpin here acting not only as a foil to the instrumentalists, but leading the band on their "space age chants" like "Outer Spaceways Incorporated," "Satellites are Spinning," and "Space is the Place." There are a couple of excellent blowouts for the instrumentalists as well, "Blackman/Love In Outer Space" opens with Tyson singing a call to arms followed by an intense interlude of free jazz and percussion. A battery of percussion also fuels the exciting "Watusa" before opening into a fine Gilmore solo. This is a fascinating album, and one of the key records Sun Ra made in the seventies, touching on all of his high points, lyrical melodies, science fiction chants, and exploratory free jazz. Dabblers can dismiss the film and music as afro-futurist, blaxploitation camp at their own peril. Many of the themes in the film and the music that was recorded around the time of the filming were ones that Ra had been repeating for decades. The themes of discipline and self reliance, the understanding of the person as part of a greater whole have been part of the Arkestra message since the 1950's. They are given a particularly powerful boost in this case by the superb arrangements, ensemble playing and soloing. Space is the Place: Music for the Film - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.