Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Sun Ra Arkestra - Unity: Live at Storyville NYC Oct 1977 (Enterplanetary Koncepts, 2020)

This is an unusual and fascinating Sun Ra album with the Arkestra expanding to full big band size and committing themselves to mostly swing repertoire. This album was recorded live at Storyville jazz club in New York City during October of 1977, and it is really interesting to hear the band swing like mad, which must have silenced a lot of critics who looked down on their costumes and more free playing. After weaving gracefully through the standard “Yesterdays” things really begin to pick up steam with the inclusion of Duke Ellington’s “Lightnin” and Ra’s own “Lights on a Satellite.” But the highpoint of the recording comes when the band jumps into a couple of early jazz barnburners, “Yeah, Man” and “King Porter Stomp.” This expanded twenty member version of the Arkestra latches onto these big riffs and just doesn't let go. They get such an authentic sound that you can imagine them as a territory band blowing up towns in the midwest in the 1930’s with their massive hot jazz sound. Ra stitches together Tadd Dameron’s “Lady Bird” and the Miles Davis vehicle “Half Nelson” which have similar structures and allow the band some room to stretch out as does a version of “My Favorite Things” that owes more to John Coltrane than Julie Andrews. The program winds down with an excellent version of the Sun Ra original “Satellites are Spinning” with vocalist June Tyson leading the group through the vocal chant and then making way for an excellent improvised instrumental section. The album wraps up with a short version of Ra’s beautiful original “Enlightenment” that ends the concert on a thoughtful and beautiful note. This album was originally released on the Italian Horo label in 1978, and this digital reissue sounds very good, making this unique and high quality Sun Ra album widely available again. Unity - Bandcamp

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