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UPC - 031397761229
Various Artists - Calling Planet Earth

Release Date - May, 2006
$31.98

Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Somewhere There - 14.54
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Outer Spaceways Incorporated - 7.14
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Intergalactic Motion - 8.07
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Saturn - 6.08
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Song Of The Sparer - 4.22
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Spontaneous Simplicity - 7.56
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Prelude And Shadow - 9.17
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - The Wind Speaks - 9.09
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - We Sing This Song - 5.46
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Outer Space Incorporated - 10.03
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - We Travel The Spaceways - 2.25
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Discipline No 5 - 1.49
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Discipline No 10 - 2.45
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Enlightment - 2.35
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Love In Outer Space - 8.12
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Discipline No 15 - 2.44
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - The Satelites Are Spinning - 2.38
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Calling Planet Earth - 6.48
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - The Outers - 9.54
Sun Ra, Box Set Vol.1 - Adventured Outer Space - 7.32

OUTER SPACEWAYS INCORPORATED (disc 1) (Previously Released As BL 760191) "Instruction to the peoples of earth: You must realize that you have the right to love beauty. You must prepare to live life to the fullest extent. Of course it takes imagination, but you don't have to be an educated person to have that. Imagination can teach you the true meaning of pleasures. Listening can be one of the greatest of pleasures. You must learn to listen, because by listening you will learn to see with your mind's eye. You see, music paints pictures that only the mind's eye can see. Open your ears so that you can see with the eye of the mind." This statement by Sun Ra accompanied the first recording made of this music in 1956. Then as now his music was exceptional, and one could write at length about the artistic mastery and originality he has shown in thirty albums over the last fifteen years, and his towering importance as a composer for improvisers. Then as now, however, Sun Ra's words made it clear that he was not essentially concerned with music as such, but with using it as a means to communicate insight and understanding. Ever since he founded the Arkestra, musicians have looked up to him as a teacher and have come to him for guidance. Some have dedicated themselves completely to his music and his philosophy and (whether for only a few months or, as with men like John Gilmore and Pat Patrick, for over fifteen years) joined the Arkestra, an ensemble which is also a tribal community of which he is both chief and prophet. Through their work, his musical influence is shown in much free jazz, as well as more commercial groups such as the Mothers of Inventions and Pink Floyd. But, spiritually, he has exerted a, perhaps, even wider influence, not only through members of the Arkestra, but through many other musicians, such as John Coltrane, who have sought his guidance in this sphere alone. For many years Sun Ra was the ONLY artist in jazz or popular music who spoke of spiritual matters, the ONLY artist whose work was intended to express a deeper meaning. Now that others like Coltrane and George Harrison have started trying to follow his example, this aspect of his achievement becomes more strikingly significant with every year. Sun Ra calls his music 'Space Music' or 'Intergalactic Music'. His fundamental idea is that man is not the center of creation, but a mere speck in an endless universe. (This insight is, of course, neither very new nor very startling, yet countless generations of religious and scientific thinkers have failed to persuade man to accept its implications.) Since this is its subject, the music naturally transcends simple human emotions and forms, and portrays larger and more complex realities. Although Sun Ra's compositions emphasize earthly rich textures and forceful improvising, the resulting feeling is of humility and selflessness Ð the musicians are not expressing their egos or his, but giving a portrait of the All in which man is such an insignificant part. Sun Ra's own words: "I'm actually painting pictures of infinity with my music, and that's why a lot of people can't understand it. But if they'd listen to this and to other types of music, they'll find that mine has something else in it, something from another world." The effect on man of seeing himself in his true perspective should be liberating: "When a person begins to see and feel his insignificance, then he can see his worth and worthlessness and see that sometimes worthlessness and valuelessness and pricelessness are synonyms on another plane of understanding." This attitude will help him face and grasp new aspects of reality: "Intergalactic music concerns the music of galaxies. It concerns intergalactic thought and intergalactic travel, so it is really outside the realms of the future on the turning points of the impossible. But it is still existent, as astronomy testifies." Finally, the purpose is to enrich our lives on this planet: "The real aim of this music is to coordinate the minds of people into an intelligent reach for a better world, and an intelligent approach to the living future." By now it will be clear that, although his interests appear not to be of this world, Sun Ra's real goal is to help humanity. In fact, he feels this must be the goal of all worthwhile music: "A sound music is to build sound bodies, sound minds and sound hearts." But unlike the average reforming idealist Ð not to mention those he wants to reform Ð Sun Ra has no illusions about humanity. Doubly an outcast, as an artist-philosopher in a materialistic society and as a black man in a white society, he has seen us for what we are. He once stated he would welcome the destruction of white civilization, "Because it has never done anything for me but try to stop me, try to make my so-called life ugly like the rest of black people... When people try to destroy the kindness and love in a person, they deserve the cruelest dimensions the Creator can cast upon them." As for the black race: "I couldn't approach black people with the truth because they like lies. They live lies. They say, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.', but I don't see them doing that... If you can see me playing before black folks, you'll see they're uncomfortable because I'm beauty and they're ugly." His biggest hope is in the hippies and the colleges, "Because this natural instinct tells them, 'You have got to go another way'... It's a good sign for a race when you have some people who really recognize that. You haven't had that too much in the black race.'" This is the audience he is now reaching, both in the United States and in his highly successful concerts in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Holland. Sun Ra reaches the young audience because, although his music does transcend simple human emotions and forms, at the same time it is utterly rooted in them. The hundreds of students who surged towards the Arkestra at Liverpool University and joined in with stamping and clapping and chants of "Ra, Ra, Ra" testified to the fact that the music draws its strength from traditions of the most basic and universal appeal. The central source is black music, which, in rock, jazz, blues and their derivatives, is a common musical language for the whole Western world. At live performances, it can seem we are being shown a panorama of the complete range and achievements of black music - not to mention the costumes and movements and projections, and the many other musical areas explored - so wide is the variety of forms and so strong is the authority with which they are presented. A single album gives only a very limited idea of the full scope, but even so it is clearly suggested in the enclosed concert recording. Take the warmth of the flute and Latin American rhythm on Spontaneous Simplicity, for instance, and compare it with the gravely lyrical Song of the Sparer, or the violently free alto and colorful drum solos on Somewhere There. Or take Saturn, a more conventional big band piece with its fine tenor solo by John Gilmore in his style of the 1950s, when he so greatly influenced the playing of John Coltrane. Finally, for conclusive proof of Sun Ra's powerful handling of very contrasting materials, take Outer Spaceways. His own spavined piano and the carefully controlled clanking dissonance of the horns are at once impressively advanced and complex musical statements and a convincing interpretation of the subject of the piece. Yet alongside these elements we find the Arkestra performing a chant of such timeless simplicity that it can only be called pre-musical. Sun Ra means to reach every man. Ñ Victor Schonfield (1971) **** --------------------------------------------------------------------------*** SPACEWAYS (disc 2) From 1961, when they arrived in New York City, through 1965, Sun Ra and his musicians lived in obscurity. Though this was one of Sunny's most creative periods, and many brilliant performances have been preserved, we are able to hear them only because he was in the habit of taping the band's rehearsals. Gigs were dreadfully sparse: an infrequent week in a half-empty coffee house. Pay was nominal. But in 1966, when most of the music on this CD was recorded, the Arkestra's destiny was beginning to alter. The Arkestra taped two monumental sessions for ESP-Disk in 1965; these got the critical attention (and the retail distribution) that consistently eluded recordings on Sunny's own Saturn label. And in January 1966, the Arkestra began working Monday nights at Slug's Saloon in the East Village; it was to be their most reliable venue for the next 6 1/2 years. Gigs in larger halls began to come their wayÐ even a few trips out of town, though at first these went no farther than Boston, or Upstate New York, or Washington D.C. (The Arkestra did not reach California until 1968, and their first European tour took place a good two years after that.) Arkestral concerts showed no respect for the confines of the long-playing record. At Slug's, the Arkestra sometimes played 6 hours without a break. In concert halls, they might have to restrain themselves, but 3 hours was still the norm. So the challenge before Sunny, who edited the band's tapes himself and programmed his LPs carefully, was to condense hours of highly varied music down to 40 'representative' minutes. The first two tracks on this CD are a continuous stretch from a concert in 1966; that makes them around two years older than most of the material on Outer Spaceways Incorporated. Prelude is Ra's solo piano: thunder first, then high, delicate clusters that recall The Galaxy Way from his solo recording Monorails and Satellites. Clifford Jarvis' drums arrive, along with Nimrod Hunt's hand drums and James Jacson's log drums (the clop is distinctive). As the piano intensifies, the band sings "Sun Ra / and his Band from Outer Space / will entertain you now." Sunny brings the piano to a moderate boil for The Shadow World. This was already the fifth recording of the composition since it's unveiling in 1964; The Shadow World remains in the Arkestra's repertoire 30 years later. The fiendishly difficult head is executed with precision and discipline (the product, no doubt, of hundreds of rehearsals) by Marshall Allen and Danny Davis (alto saxophones), John Gilmore (tenor sax), and Pat Patrick (baritone sax). Wisely, the other horn players lay out. In later years, The Shadow World might have launched a frenetic blast from Marshall's alto, or extreme-register pyrotechnics from John's tenor, or a romping trio from the other reeds, accompanied by on-stage acrobatics. But here it is up to Pat Patrick and his baritone sax to move the earth, followed by Sunny's piano (eerily close in this solo to the Cecil Taylor of D Trad, That's What). The solo dissolves into a whole-band percussion extravaganza; Sunny whacks a gong, then sits back down to deliver more piano thunder. Finally, he summons up a 'space chord' from the entire Arkestra; it trails down into the lower register of Robert Cummings' bass clarinet. The Wind Speaks is a gentle, sinuous Ra theme; after it acquired lyrics, it became known as Somebody Else's Idea. There is a classic ensemble Ð John Gilmore's tenor sax playing lead, flutes, bowed bass. An ensemble of flutes (Danny Davis, James Jacson, Pat Patrick) and piccolo (Marshall Allen) flutters and chatters around the piano. Ronnie Boykins picks up his bow for a world-weary meditation. Sunny creeps in, low and menacing, on his Clavioline. (The Clavioline was a little monophonic electronic keyboard, manufactured by Selmer in the late 1940s. It was intended, as the name suggests, to emulate a stringed instrument, and its built-in speaker could not dominate a band the way Sunny's later keyboards could. Some of Sunny's greatest performances used these tiny keys, the sliders in front that changed register, the lever temptingly marked "V" for vibrato.) For a moment, Sunny and Ronnie visit the Magic City. Then Sunny returns to the piano for thunder and bells. The Wind Speaks has that nostalgia for the alien that we find in so many of Sunny's compositions; the strangeness is much accentuated when the ensemble reappears, now featuring oboe, bass clarinet, and Clavioline. We Sing This Song was spliced in from a later concert. We hear the final lines from The Satellites Are Spinning; the band marches around the stage, led by June Tyson, who joined around the beginning of 1968. The vocals are there to set the stage Ð Sunny opens up a tremendous exhibition of pianism, violence receding into echoing distance, then mounting a comeback. At this point, a real concert might have just been warming up. But on the LP some of the customary space chants were needed to round off the event for the listener. We return to the first concert for Outer Spaceways Incorporated, a chestnut from 1960. The band sings; Sunny's solo rumination reminds us of endless rehearsals at the Choreographers Worship, circa 1962. The Arkestra's inseparable trombonists, Teddy Nance and Bernard Pettaway, surprise us with a ringing duo. The Cavioline cuts in; a powerful trap drum duet ushers in an orgy in rhythm. The texture lightens again, the piano reappears, and Marshall Allen's alto sax is framed by a gently warped ensemble. For a firm conclusion, Sunny borrowed an excerpt from another 1966 concert: a brief performance of We Travel the Spaceways, in his original arrangement from 1960. John Gilmore and the other Arkestrans chant as they file off the stage. The music on this CD comes from an era before Moog synthesizers, loud organs, or Jacson's Ancient Egyptian Infinity Drum. There were no European tours yet; no nightly sermons from the Reverend Ra. Ronnie Boykins ceased to be a regular not long after the 1966 concerts included here; another bassist is on We Sing This Song. The Clavioline went out of repair, or perhaps it disappeared, like some of Sunny's other cherished keyboards. Sunny and Arkestra would explore many other regions. But they would never travel these spaceways again. **** --------------------------------------------------------------------------*** CALLING PLANET EARTH (disc 3) "Calling Planet Earth", a concert recording made under Sun Ra's own auspices, marks one of the Sun Ra Arkestra's strangest and most significant peregrinations outside the United States. The tour had started early in October of 1971, with at least twenty-six musicians and dancers journeying to Sweden alongside Sun Ra; by now, after nearly two months with little work, the Arkestra, although still large by any standards, was only about half the size of the original touring party. The tour had also been stretched beyond its planned end date: this concert in Denmark was one of a series of engagements added after Sun Ra had begun to contemplate the possibility of extending his trip abroad still further to visit Egypt, a place of immense spiritual significance for him. And indeed, within days of this Copenhagen concert, the Arkestra had decamped to Cairo, playing their first gig there on December 12. The air fares to Egypt were paid, in part, by Sun Ra selling tapes of his music: included were those of "Calling Planet Earth", now released here for the first time. One member of the audience for "Calling Planet Earth" was Anthony Barnett, at that time playing percussion in Denmark with John Tchicai's own large ensembles, more latterly the author of "Desert Sands", the bio-discography of Stuff Smith, and publisher of the journal, "Violin Improvisation Studies." His lasting impressions of the evening include the physical dynamism: the very movement of the musicians and dancers around the stage. Also, the recording by a member of Sun Ra's entourage of interviews with members of the audience as they left the hall (whatever happened to those?). Lastly, an overall impression that there was a startling difference between this live music and the then available Sun Ra studio recordings of the 1960s, which he remembers perceiving as far more determinedly "experimental" in character. In retrospect, and compared to his music of both earlier and later years, a sheer fluidity characterizes Sun Ra's live recordings of 1971. From the early 1960s onwards, Sun Ra had been progressively abandoning the single song form; by the time of "Calling Planet Earth", a concert set would flow unstoppably from each musical episode to the next, encompassing the loose-limbered horn ensembles, which Sun Ra paradoxically called his "Discipline" series, alongside Sun Ra instrumentals, such as "Love In Outer Space", a joyous rhythmic excursion. Ensemble chants were a prominent feature of Sun Ra's music of 1971: these were often extended into much more detailed contrapuntal investigations than latterly. Some aspects of the overall sound of this particular edition of the Arkestra are extremely striking when you first hear the various surviving Sun Ra recordings from late 1971, the strong impression remaining with later listening. Examples include the very detailed saxophone section work, thrown into greater prominence by the absence (at this stage of the tour) of nearly all of the usual brass section. There is the sound of Pat Patrick's electric bass line: rock solid rhythmic underpinning. There are the synthesizer improvisations of Sun Ra himself. Above all, though, this music differs from anything Sun Ra did either earlier or later simply in the balance achieved between improvisation and arrangement in the music, the architecture of the sets. "Calling Planet Earth" is fantastically open music Ð give it a listen! Ñ Chris Trent, January 31, 1998. OUTER SPACEWAYS INCORPORATED (disc 1) (Previously Released As BL 760191) "Instruction to the peoples of earth: You must realize that you have the right to love beauty. You must prepare to live life to the fullest extent. Of course it takes imagination, but you don't have to be an educated person to have that. Imagination can teach you the true meaning of pleasures. Listening can be one of the greatest of pleasures. You must learn to listen, because by listening you will learn to see with your mind's eye. You see, music paints pictures that only the mind's eye can see. Open your ears so that you can see with the eye of the mind." This statement by Sun Ra accompanied the first recording made of this music in 1956. Then as now his music was exceptional, and one could write at length about the artistic mastery and originality he has shown in thirty albums over the last fifteen years, and his towering importance as a composer for improvisers. Then as now, however, Sun Ra's words made it clear that he was not essentially concerned with music as such, but with using it as a means to communicate insight and understanding. Ever since he founded the Arkestra, musicians have looked up to him as a teacher and have come to him for guidance. Some have dedicated themselves completely to his music and his philosophy and (whether for only a few months or, as with men like John Gilmore and Pat Patrick, for over fifteen years) joined the Arkestra, an ensemble which is also a tribal community of which he is both chief and prophet. Through their work, his musical influence is shown in much free jazz, as well as more commercial groups such as the Mothers of Inventions and Pink Floyd. But, spiritually, he has exerted a, perhaps, even wider influence, not only through members of the Arkestra, but through many other musicians, such as John Coltrane, who have sought his guidance in this sphere alone. For many years Sun Ra was the ONLY artist in jazz or popular music who spoke of spiritual matters, the ONLY artist whose work was intended to express a deeper meaning. Now that others like Coltrane and George Harrison have started trying to follow his example, this aspect of his achievement becomes more strikingly significant with every year. Sun Ra calls his music 'Space Music' or 'Intergalactic Music'. His fundamental idea is that man is not the center of creation, but a mere speck in an endless universe. (This insight is, of course, neither very new nor very startling, yet countless generations of religious and scientific thinkers have failed to persuade man to accept its implications.) Since this is its subject, the music naturally transcends simple human emotions and forms, and portrays larger and more complex realities. Although Sun Ra's compositions emphasize earthly rich textures and forceful improvising, the resulting feeling is of humility and selflessness Ð the musicians are not expressing their egos or his, but giving a portrait of the All in which man is such an insignificant part. Sun Ra's own words: "I'm actually painting pictures of infinity with my music, and that's why a lot of people can't understand it. But if they'd listen to this and to other types of music, they'll find that mine has something else in it, something from another world." The effect on man of seeing himself in his true perspective should be liberating: "When a person begins to see and feel his insignificance, then he can see his worth and worthlessness and see that sometimes worthlessness and valuelessness and pricelessness are synonyms on another plane of understanding." This attitude will help him face and grasp new aspects of reality: "Intergalactic music concerns the music of galaxies. It concerns intergalactic thought and intergalactic travel, so it is really outside the realms of the future on the turning points of the impossible. But it is still existent, as astronomy testifies." Finally, the purpose is to enrich our lives on this planet: "The real aim of this music is to coordinate the minds of people into an intelligent reach for a better world, and an intelligent approach to the living future." By now it will be clear that, although his interests appear not to be of this world, Sun Ra's real goal is to help humanity. In fact, he feels this must be the goal of all worthwhile music: "A sound music is to build sound bodies, sound minds and sound hearts." But unlike the average reforming idealist Ð not to mention those he wants to reform Ð Sun Ra has no illusions about humanity. Doubly an outcast, as an artist-philosopher in a materialistic society and as a black man in a white society, he has seen us for what we are. He once stated he would welcome the destruction of white civilization, "Because it has never done anything for me but try to stop me, try to make my so-called life ugly like the rest of black people... When people try to destroy the kindness and love in a person, they deserve the cruelest dimensions the Creator can cast upon them." As for the black race: "I couldn't approach black people with the truth because they like lies. They live lies. They say, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.', but I don't see them doing that... If you can see me playing before black folks, you'll see they're uncomfortable because I'm beauty and they're ugly." His biggest hope is in the hippies and the colleges, "Because this natural instinct tells them, 'You have got to go another way'... It's a good sign for a race when you have some people who really recognize that. You haven't had that too much in the black race.'" This is the audience he is now reaching, both in the United States and in his highly successful concerts in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Holland. Sun Ra reaches the young audience because, although his music does transcend simple human emotions and forms, at the same time it is utterly rooted in them. The hundreds of students who surged towards the Arkestra at Liverpool University and joined in with stamping and clapping and chants of "Ra, Ra, Ra" testified to the fact that the music draws its strength from traditions of the most basic and universal appeal. The central source is black music, which, in rock, jazz, blues and their derivatives, is a common musical language for the whole Western world. At live performances, it can seem we are being shown a panorama of the complete range and achievements of black music - not to mention the costumes and movements and projections, and the many other musical areas explored - so wide is the variety of forms and so strong is the authority with which they are presented. A single album gives only a very limited idea of the full scope, but even so it is clearly suggested in the enclosed concert recording. Take the warmth of the flute and Latin American rhythm on Spontaneous Simplicity, for instance, and compare it with the gravely lyrical Song of the Sparer, or the violently free alto and colorful drum solos on Somewhere There. Or take Saturn, a more conventional big band piece with its fine tenor solo by John Gilmore in his style of the 1950s, when he so greatly influenced the playing of John Coltrane. Finally, for conclusive proof of Sun Ra's powerful handling of very contrasting materials, take Outer Spaceways. His own spavined piano and the carefully controlled clanking dissonance of the horns are at once impressively advanced and complex musical statements and a convincing interpretation of the subject of the piece. Yet alongside these elements we find the Arkestra performing a chant of such timeless simplicity that it can only be called pre-musical. Sun Ra means to reach every man. Ñ Victor Schonfield (1971) **** --------------------------------------------------------------------------*** SPACEWAYS (disc 2) From 1961, when they arrived in New York City, through 1965, Sun Ra and his musicians lived in obscurity. Though this was one of Sunny's most creative periods, and many brilliant performances have been preserved, we are able to hear them only because he was in the habit of taping the band's rehearsals. Gigs were dreadfully sparse: an infrequent week in a half-empty coffee house. Pay was nominal. But in 1966, when most of the music on this CD was recorded, the Arkestra's destiny was beginning to alter. The Arkestra taped two monumental sessions for ESP-Disk in 1965; these got the critical attention (and the retail distribution) that consistently eluded recordings on Sunny's own Saturn label. And in January 1966, the Arkestra began working Monday nights at Slug's Saloon in the East Village; it was to be their most reliable venue for the next 6 1/2 years. Gigs in larger halls began to come their wayÐ even a few trips out of town, though at first these went no farther than Boston, or Upstate New York, or Washington D.C. (The Arkestra did not reach California until 1968, and their first European tour took place a good two years after that.) Arkestral concerts showed no respect for the confines of the long-playing record. At Slug's, the Arkestra sometimes played 6 hours without a break. In concert halls, they might have to restrain themselves, but 3 hours was still the norm. So the challenge before Sunny, who edited the band's tapes himself and programmed his LPs carefully, was to condense hours of highly varied music down to 40 'representative' minutes. The first two tracks on this CD are a continuous stretch from a concert in 1966; that makes them around two years older than most of the material on Outer Spaceways Incorporated. Prelude is Ra's solo piano: thunder first, then high, delicate clusters that recall The Galaxy Way from his solo recording Monorails and Satellites. Clifford Jarvis' drums arrive, along with Nimrod Hunt's hand drums and James Jacson's log drums (the clop is distinctive). As the piano intensifies, the band sings "Sun Ra / and his Band from Outer Space / will entertain you now." Sunny brings the piano to a moderate boil for The Shadow World. This was already the fifth recording of the composition since it's unveiling in 1964; The Shadow World remains in the Arkestra's repertoire 30 years later. The fiendishly difficult head is executed with precision and discipline (the product, no doubt, of hundreds of rehearsals) by Marshall Allen and Danny Davis (alto saxophones), John Gilmore (tenor sax), and Pat Patrick (baritone sax). Wisely, the other horn players lay out. In later years, The Shadow World might have launched a frenetic blast from Marshall's alto, or extreme-register pyrotechnics from John's tenor, or a romping trio from the other reeds, accompanied by on-stage acrobatics. But here it is up to Pat Patrick and his baritone sax to move the earth, followed by Sunny's piano (eerily close in this solo to the Cecil Taylor of D Trad, That's What). The solo dissolves into a whole-band percussion extravaganza; Sunny whacks a gong, then sits back down to deliver more piano thunder. Finally, he summons up a 'space chord' from the entire Arkestra; it trails down into the lower register of Robert Cummings' bass clarinet. The Wind Speaks is a gentle, sinuous Ra theme; after it acquired lyrics, it became known as Somebody Else's Idea. There is a classic ensemble Ð John Gilmore's tenor sax playing lead, flutes, bowed bass. An ensemble of flutes (Danny Davis, James Jacson, Pat Patrick) and piccolo (Marshall Allen) flutters and chatters around the piano. Ronnie Boykins picks up his bow for a world-weary meditation. Sunny creeps in, low and menacing, on his Clavioline. (The Clavioline was a little monophonic electronic keyboard, manufactured by Selmer in the late 1940s. It was intended, as the name suggests, to emulate a stringed instrument, and its built-in speaker could not dominate a band the way Sunny's later keyboards could. Some of Sunny's greatest performances used these tiny keys, the sliders in front that changed register, the lever temptingly marked "V" for vibrato.) For a moment, Sunny and Ronnie visit the Magic City. Then Sunny returns to the piano for thunder and bells. The Wind Speaks has that nostalgia for the alien that we find in so many of Sunny's compositions; the strangeness is much accentuated when the ensemble reappears, now featuring oboe, bass clarinet, and Clavioline. We Sing This Song was spliced in from a later concert. We hear the final lines from The Satellites Are Spinning; the band marches around the stage, led by June Tyson, who joined around the beginning of 1968. The vocals are there to set the stage Ð Sunny opens up a tremendous exhibition of pianism, violence receding into echoing distance, then mounting a comeback. At this point, a real concert might have just been warming up. But on the LP some of the customary space chants were needed to round off the event for the listener. We return to the first concert for Outer Spaceways Incorporated, a chestnut from 1960. The band sings; Sunny's solo rumination reminds us of endless rehearsals at the Choreographers Worship, circa 1962. The Arkestra's inseparable trombonists, Teddy Nance and Bernard Pettaway, surprise us with a ringing duo. The Cavioline cuts in; a powerful trap drum duet ushers in an orgy in rhythm. The texture lightens again, the piano reappears, and Marshall Allen's alto sax is framed by a gently warped ensemble. For a firm conclusion, Sunny borrowed an excerpt from another 1966 concert: a brief performance of We Travel the Spaceways, in his original arrangement from 1960. John Gilmore and the other Arkestrans chant as they file off the stage. The music on this CD comes from an era before Moog synthesizers, loud organs, or Jacson's Ancient Egyptian Infinity Drum. There were no European tours yet; no nightly sermons from the Reverend Ra. Ronnie Boykins ceased to be a regular not long after the 1966 concerts included here; another bassist is on We Sing This Song. The Clavioline went out of repair, or perhaps it disappeared, like some of Sunny's other cherished keyboards. Sunny and Arkestra would explore many other regions. But they would never travel these spaceways again. **** --------------------------------------------------------------------------*** CALLING PLANET EARTH (disc 3) "Calling Planet Earth", a concert recording made under Sun Ra's own auspices, marks one of the Sun Ra Arkestra's strangest and most significant peregrinations outside the United States. The tour had started early in October of 1971, with at least twenty-six musicians and dancers journeying to Sweden alongside Sun Ra; by now, after nearly two months with little work, the Arkestra, although still large by any standards, was only about half the size of the original touring party. The tour had also been stretched beyond its planned end date: this concert in Denmark was one of a series of engagements added after Sun Ra had begun to contemplate the possibility of extending his trip abroad still further to visit Egypt, a place of immense spiritual significance for him. And indeed, within days of this Copenhagen concert, the Arkestra had decamped to Cairo, playing their first gig there on December 12. The air fares to Egypt were paid, in part, by Sun Ra selling tapes of his music: included were those of "Calling Planet Earth", now released here for the first time. One member of the audience for "Calling Planet Earth" was Anthony Barnett, at that time playing percussion in Denmark with John Tchicai's own large ensembles, more latterly the author of "Desert Sands", the bio-discography of Stuff Smith, and publisher of the journal, "Violin Improvisation Studies." His lasting impressions of the evening include the physical dynamism: the very movement of the musicians and dancers around the stage. Also, the recording by a member of Sun Ra's entourage of interviews with members of the audience as they left the hall (whatever happened to those?). Lastly, an overall impression that there was a startling difference between this live music and the then available Sun Ra studio recordings of the 1960s, which he remembers perceiving as far more determinedly "experimental" in character. In retrospect, and compared to his music of both earlier and later years, a sheer fluidity characterizes Sun Ra's live recordings of 1971. From the early 1960s onwards, Sun Ra had been progressively abandoning the single song form; by the time of "Calling Planet Earth", a concert set would flow unstoppably from each musical episode to the next, encompassing the loose-limbered horn ensembles, which Sun Ra paradoxically called his "Discipline" series, alongside Sun Ra instrumentals, such as "Love In Outer Space", a joyous rhythmic excursion. Ensemble chants were a prominent feature of Sun Ra's music of 1971: these were often extended into much more detailed contrapuntal investigations than latterly. Some aspects of the overall sound of this particular edition of the Arkestra are extremely striking when you first hear the various surviving Sun Ra recordings from late 1971, the strong impression remaining with later listening. Examples include the very detailed saxophone section work, thrown into greater prominence by the absence (at this stage of the tour) of nearly all of the usual brass section. There is the sound of Pat Patrick's electric bass line: rock solid rhythmic underpinning. There are the synthesizer improvisations of Sun Ra himself. Above all, though, this music differs from anything Sun Ra did either earlier or later simply in the balance achieved between improvisation and arrangement in the music, the architecture of the sets. "Calling Planet Earth" is fantastically open music Ð give it a listen! Ñ Chris Trent, January 31, 1998.


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