Saturn’s envoy returns

100 years of Sun Ra!

His appearances in African pop culture are still alive today. A compilation brings together the best jazz in the world.

Sun Ra was the sun god among the jazz visionaries, a savior from outer space who, as he announced, had come from the earth from Saturn. From the late fifties he traveled through the world with his Arkestra to spread interplanetary messages: “Have you heard the latest news from Neptune?” A spinner, once said. One genius, the other. Far away from other scenes, he circles in his very own Afro Big Band free jazz cosmos.
His influence was enormous. Sun Ra inspired jazzmen, radio futurists and techno pioneers, today Lady Gaga cites him. But only a few have actually listened to him. Although his oeuvre is no longer circulated only in self-imposed micro-editions, he is considered a case for initiates. Even the most interested in the discography, which calls far more than 100 titles.

In the Orbit of Ra now has a way to the 100th birthday. Curated, the Werkschau has a co-worker from the innermost circle of the Arkestra, the 90-year-old saxophonist Marshall Allen, who is the leader, since Ra 1993 the planet has left.
The early recordings still testify Sun’s roots in swing. In the Chicago of the forties he played in the band Fletcher Hendersons, then under his “slave name” Herman Poole Blount. He laid it down in 1952. He grew up in the racist South of the USA and several years because of military service in prison, he reinvented himself as extraterrestrial: a masquerade, which also expressed foreignity experiences and offered a way out.

Space became the grand metaphor for a black utopia in the work of Sun Ras, the key to a proud Afrofuturist counter-plot. His music evolved from the jazz tradition to a collective improvised, glamorous slanting out of this world music with chants and polyrhythmic grooves, exotic harmonies and electronic effects; His appearances in Egyptian-looking sci-fi costumes transformed every concert hall into a temple of his liberation mythology.

African pop culture is still a part of their treasures. The fact that the soundtrack of the big outsider is not only an insider, makes Allens compilation audible by gently moving from the catchy to the outdoors. Sun Ras compositions may be demanding. This compilation shows how seductive they are: beguiling avant-garde.

“In the Orbit of Ra” by Marshall Allen presents Sun Ra and his Arkestra has appeared at b Strut Records.

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