Thursday, January 02, 2020

June Tyson - Saturnian Queen Of The Sun Ra Arkestra (Modern Harmonic, 2019)

June Tyson may have been the only woman in the Sun Ra Arkestra, but she had big responsibilities. In addition to serving as the group’s worked as the band's costume designer, choreographer, and occasional violinist, she was most well known as the band’s lead singer. She served 1968 until her death in 1992 and left an indelible mark on the second and final half of Sun Ra’s career as a bandleader. Her singing style is strong and clear, and worked well on Ra’s original material, whether it covered spiritual, afrofuturistic or space related topics. The music on this album presents an excellent cross section of her work and unsurprisingly, also represents some of the Arkestra’s best work of the period. There are examples of spacey and haunting material that present her not only with the band playing, but with members of the band vocalizing along with her are present on the Arkestra standard “We Travel the Spaceways” and also the rare and nearly spectral performance “The Moors (AKA Moorish Nights).” Ra’s deceptively philosophical lyrics found a home with Tyson, whether on the twisting and turning cadences of  “Somebody Else’s World” or “Astro Black” which links the search for civil rights on Earth with the exploration of inner and outer space. The music itself is always fascinating, Sun Ra’s compositions, arrangements and lyrics were like nothing else at the time and cemented his role as one of the greatest explorers in American music. The bands themselves contained great soloists like John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, all of which could come together to either frame Tyson’s vocals on the quieter numbers or lift her voice to the stars on the uptempo performances. This is a well done compilation that sheds some much needed light on a very talented performer. The album includes previously unreleased tracks, and the physical version comes with a booklet containing rare photos and extensive liner notes. Saturnian Queen Of The Sun Ra Arkestra -

Send comments to Tim.