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Pharaoh’s Den, the Sun Ra-themed grocery store in Philadelphia
08.25.2017
07:50 am
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The Pharaoh’s Den sign in ‘Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise
 
“PHARAOH FED THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD FOR 7 YEARS,” the sign in Germantown proclaimed. “THE FIRST SUPERMARKET.” This was the entrance to Pharaoh’s Den, a grocery store run by Sun Ra’s saxophonist and manager Danny Thompson during the Arkestra’s Philadelphia period. When I finally get that time machine, I will do all of my shopping here and at Leonard Nimoy’s Pet Pad.

Just thinking about a day in Danny Thompson’s life during those years makes my feet hurt. Ra biographer John F. Szwed writes that running the store, which was financed by Thompson’s mother, was only one of the saxophonist’s responsibilities as the person tasked with keeping the Arkestra in funds. When he wasn’t busy in all-day rehearsals or running Pharaoh’s Den, Thompson wore a salesman’s hat, dealing stacks of El Saturn’s unlovely vinyl.

Danny Thompson’s approach to the sale of records was what he called improvisation, and what others might call shtick: a mixture of messianic zeal, hustle, and moxie. When he entered Third Street Jazz & Blues with handfuls of 45s, some of which looked warped, handmade, maybe not even recorded on, he launched into a pitch that assured the sales staff that no other store would be getting these records, that they were a unique product, collectors’ items, that they would immediately sell out…then, more ominously, that they were dangerous. After such a spiel, who could say to him only, “We’ll take a couple”? When asked what the returns policy was for defective records, Thompson would answer, “The Creator works in mysterious ways.”

Thompson described the grind of working for “the Creator” in a recent onstage discussion with his colleague, Marshall Allen. “It was like you going to a construction job,” he said.

I became Sun Ra’s manager for like 10 years. It will burn you out. Really, I’m not going to lie. If everything went wrong, it was on you. If everything went right, it was on, “Sun Ra did it.” It was just so much. It was so much that I left for a while, but you never really leave. I took a vacation like 10 years.

See film footage of the Pharaoh’s Den after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.25.2017
07:50 am
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Sun Ra’s recipe for Moon Stew
05.19.2017
09:23 am
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Starting in the sixties, when Sun Ra and his Arkestra were living in a communal house in the East Village, the group sometimes subsisted on a home-cooked vegetarian meal named after their lunar complement. Like Gurdjieff’s salad, not all of its ingredients could be precisely measured, says Ra’s biographer John F. Szwed:

Sometimes when they were short of money for food [Sun Ra] took over the cooking, and his cooking was like the music, individualized, spiritually guided, mysteriously concocted. Moon Stew was his chief dish, a mix of green peppers, onion, garlic, potatoes, okra, tomatoes, and ears of corn. And when it was done right, he said you could taste each ingredient individually. Once when he was asked to share the recipe for a musicians’ cookbook, he warned the authors that there were no fixed proportions to it, and that it required the ingredients of sincerity and love, to say nothing of the ability to make the fire burn with psychic intensity:

“You can’t say, ‘One teaspoon of this, or one teaspoon of that.’ Like a musician, you improvise. It’s like being on a spirit plane; you put the proper things in without knowing why. It comes out wonderful when it’s done like that. If you plan it, it doesn’t work.”

The cookbook was Jazz Cooks: Portraits and Recipes of the Greats, which included recipes for Dave Brubeck’s burgers and Max Roach’s corn. One of the book’s editors told the LA Times Sun Ra made him work for the Moon Stew recipe:

“I sat with him for an hour and a half, and it was hard to keep him on planet Earth,” Young said. “He never did give exact amounts of his ingredients, or cooking time, but he really went on about what he ate as a child.”

The Arkestra’s current director, Marshall Allen, recently confirmed that no one makes Moon Stew like Sonny did:

I tried making the Moon Stew myself. I used all the same ingredients like him, but it didn’t taste like his.

 

 
As reported by the food blog A Slice of Earthly Delight, the unharmonized melody goes like this:

Moon Stew

Ingredients:
Green Peppers
Onions
Garlic
Okra
Tomatoes
Corn
Flour
Butter or Vegetable Oil
Broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Sincerity
Love

1) Chop the vegetables.

2) Bring the broth to a simmer on the stove while making a rue. To make the rue, melt the butter or vegetable oil in a pan and add flour, stirring until it reaches the consistency of wet sand. Stir a little of the broth into the rue and then add the rue into the broth.

3) Add the vegetables, salt, pepper, sincerity, and love to the broth.

4) Cook for at least one hour and serve to family and friends!

At 44:09 in the interview below, Marshall Allen and Danny Thompson of the Sun Ra Arkestra (now on tour) describe life in the Sun Palace, the Arkestra’s former East Village digs.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.19.2017
09:23 am
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Sun Ra’s limbo album: ‘How low can you go?’
02.07.2017
12:18 pm
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Herman Poole Blount lived a more interesting life under the name Sun Ra than anyone you know, it’s safe to say. To make money on the side, Sun Ra used to record novelty albums as a session keyboardist. In the mid-1950s there was a DJ in Chicago named Edward O. Bland who was a big Sun Ra fan right from the very start; in 1959 he used Sun Ra for a movie he put out called Cry of Jazz. A few years later Bland was getting steady work as an arranger, and, according to John F. Szwed in his book Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra, he would consistently use Sun Ra and the members of his Arkestra as often as he could.

One such gig came in 1963, for an album intended to cash in on the limbo fad, which had actually been kicked off in 1957 by a James Mason movie called Island in the Sun that had been filmed in Barbados and Grenada. The movie introduced western audiences to the Trinidadian dance that involved walking underneath a horizontal pole, eventually by bending far backwards as the pole was positioned lower and lower on successive attempts, but it was likely Chubby Checker’s 1962 single “Limbo Rock” that truly set the limbo craze in motion.
 

 
A few months later Bland recruited Sun Ra and several of his Arkestra players to accompany Roz Croney on her album How Low Can You Go?. Specifically, Sun Ra played organ on the album, and four longtime Arkestra conspirators also play on it: Marshall Allen (alto sax), John Gilmore (bass clarinet), Ronnie Boykins (bass), and Pat Patrick (baritone sax and flute).

Being a novelty album, almost every song title mentions the word limbo by name (the only one that doesn’t is the cover of “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On,” as the title is schoolmarmishly rendered on the album sleeve). Sample titles include “Kachink Limbo,” “Loop De Loop Limbo,” and “Doggie In The Window Limbo.”

Listen to the “limbo” cuts after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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02.07.2017
12:18 pm
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Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Beefheart, The Residents, Sun Ra & more as ‘South Park’ characters
12.02.2016
10:10 am
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The Residents
 
If you like your music adventurous, you’ll probably get a huge kick out of Noise Park, a Tumblr that features South Park versions of many avant-garde, experimental, and generally out-there musicians. Whoever is making these charmingly made the decision to follow his or her own esoteric musical tastes, which is a nice way of saying that a good many of the subjects are a bit obscure (Blevin Blectum, Moth Cock, Rotten Milk, etc.), which has the effect of turning it all into an inside inside joke of sorts.

But a lot of the subjects are quite well-known, covering the more cerebral end of the musical spectrum (Kraftwerk, Beefheart, Residents). I spent a fair amount of time trying to come up with a plausibly minimalist South Park episode plot involving Terry Riley, but I failed. Then I switched to Throbbing Gristle and my brain exploded.

Some of the images on the blog are actually reworkings of The Wire magazine covers, which is a good indication of where the tastes run.
 

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
 

Brian Eno
 
Lots more after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.02.2016
10:10 am
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Sun Ra meets Natty Dread: Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari


 
Who knew the power of the boogeyman better than the Rastas? Despised pariahs, the “blackheart man” your mother warned you would steal and eat you if you were naughty, Rastas knew the score on being a scapegoat. They were “the stone that the builder refused.”

That must be why, as I read in S. Baker’s notes for the Soul Jazz comp Rastafari: The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83, which largely focuses on the contributions of Count Ossie and nyabinghi drumming to Jamaican music, the Rastas took the name “nyabinghi” straight from the racist tall tales of Italian fascists:

Propagandists of the Italian government, in the middle of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, invented a story that a secret society of black warriors known as the Nya-Binghi (meaning ‘Death to the oppressors of the black races’) had been formed under the leadership of Haile Selassie I of Abyssinia (also known as Ethiopia). A threat to civilised society, the group had (potentially) 190 million members throughout the world. The Ku Klux Klan in the United States was the first to become aware of the power of the Nya-Binghi. Apparently Klan members in numerous American cities had recently been smitten with a strange and mysterious lethal disease. With publicity like this who wouldn’t want to join the Nya-Binghis!

 

 
Count Ossie (né Oswald Williams), who is widely credited as a, if not the, inventor of nyabinghi drumming, founded a Rastafarian community near east Kingston’s Wareika Hill during the 50s. He and his band only recorded sporadically over the following decade, Baker writes, because their “community-based” music was essentially devotional and not made for material reward.

In 1973, Count Ossie and his group joined forces with the Mystics, a jazz-influenced band led by saxophonist Cedric Im Brooks, and the resulting combo was known as the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. After several years playing cover tunes in clubs, Brooks had left Jamaica in ‘68 to study music in Philadelphia, where, it’s said, Sun Ra and the Arkestra made a strong impression on him. (I haven’t yet found a source on their relationship that isn’t exasperatingly vague; Baker writes only that, while in Philadelphia, Brooks “established an association with Sun Ra’s artistic Arkestra commune.”)

Back in Jamaica, Brooks played on a number of Studio One sessions and formed the Mystics with trumpeter David Madden. Their debut with Count Ossie and group as the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari was the triple LP Grounation, recently rereleased by the Dub Store label. If a reasoning session with jazz horns sounds like a novelty item, far from it—in fact, The Rough Guide to Reggae says this is the nyabinghi album to get:

Though serious musicologists had made occasional field recordings of nyahbingi sessions, the first album to give the music the studio time it deserved, while remaining as true to its original forms as possible, was the triple LP set Grounation, from Count Ossie & the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. The MRR was an aggregation of accomplished musicians which brought together both Count Ossie’s African-style hand drummers and the horns and bass of tenor-sax man Cedric Brooks’s Mystics band. This historic set has never been superseded, but the establishment of Rastafari as the dominant reggae ideology in the mid-1970s, plus the emergence of an audience for reggae albums that were more than collections of singles, created a climate in which more sets of nyahbingi-based music could be produced.

Hear ‘Grounation’ by Count Ossie & the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.11.2016
09:01 am
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John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and many more on this stunning 12-hour mix of spiritual jazz
09.12.2016
04:24 pm
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After several decades of jazz music mainly serving as something to dance to—as Wikipedia drily notes, “the association of jazz with sex is early and extensive”—by the time the 1950s rolled around it was time to get a little more serious. Spiritual jazz is product of the late 1950s and after; it is most commonly associated with John Coltrane, whose 1965 album A Love Supreme eventually became an essential part of the record collections of impressionable college students everywhere. The trend of long-playing albums made it possible for experimental works to explore a single theme for 20 or more minutes at a time, which also lent itself to more serious explorations of divinity.

Last week the London online radio station NTS dropped a colossal, nay transcendent 4-part “history of spiritual jazz” lasting more than 12 hours in all. It starts with Fred Stone’s “Theme from Lawrence of Arabia” (originally composed by Maurice Jarre, this rendition happened in 1972) and ends with an ambitious composition by the Art Ensemble of Chicago called “Certain Blacks ‘Do What They Wanna.’” In between you’ll find remarkable music by Stanley Crouch, Elvin Jones, Sun Ra, David S. Ware, Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry, Amiri Baraka, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, Roland Kirk, Earth Wind and Fire, Art Blakey—and that’s leaving out another several dozen musicians whose names are not as familiar. (Interestingly, Charles Mingus is not represented.)

So put this on and let spiritual jazz define your week.
 
Check out all four mixes of spiritual jazz after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.12.2016
04:24 pm
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‘A Joyful Noise’: Cheer up with the gleefully cosmic philosophy of Sun Ra
06.28.2016
12:39 pm
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“Some call me Mister Ra. Others call me Mister Ree. You can call me Mr. Mystery.”

Sun Ra was always the most original and singular of free jazz musicians—indeed, his resonant origin story about his Saturnian roots often seemed to transport his music into another category altogether.

In 1980 Robert Mugge made an hour-long documentary on Sun Ra called A Joyful Noise, and it’s splendid. I don’t know if Mugge ever uttered the words “Let Sun Ra be Sun Ra,” but he surely thought it. Several years ago Time Out London included A Joyful Noise on its list of the 50 greatest music films ever made.

Mugge wonderfully arranged for Sun Ra to expound on his many daffy ideas while draping himself on and ambling near an authentic ancient Egyptian sphinx at the Museum of the University of Philadelphia. In another resonant bit, Sun Ra is filmed at night in front of the White House, which affords him an opportunity to observe sardonically that he hasn’t noticed a similarly lofty Black House in the vicinity.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.28.2016
12:39 pm
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Sun Ra invokes the Egyptian sun god at the Pyramids
05.13.2016
09:16 am
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One of my favorite bits of Sun Ra lore is this story from the bandleader’s 1971 trip to Egypt. John F. Szwed’s biography Space Is The Place recounts how customs officials, perplexed by Sun Ra’s passport (“To be named after the sun god twice was really a bit too much”), held most of the Arkestra’s instruments and luggage after letting the band into the country.

But jazz drummer Salah Ragab, “the head of military music in the Egyptian army,” came to the rescue, lending the Arkestra his gear and assisting them at some personal risk. Their shows in Egypt generated material for a trilogy of live albums, since collected on the CD releases Nidhamu + Dark Myth Equation Visitation and Horizon, and a dozen years later, during a subsequent visit, Ra collaborated with Ragab on an album with the truth-in-advertising title The Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab in Egypt.
 

 
At some indeterminate time, Ra, who could see the pyramids from his hotel outside Cairo, had decided that during the trip he would invoke his divine namesake in one of antiquity’s most sacred places. In an undated interview with Atlanta’s WREK, Ra gives his version of the Egyptian space theurgy:

...while I was there, I went in the [Great] Pyramid, up in the King’s Chamber, and I said, “Now, this pyramid was made for the name Ra. And it hadn’t been said in here in thousands of years, so let’s say it nine times and see what’ll happen.” So we said “Ra” nine times and all the lights went out in the pyramid. So I had a psychic experience there.

Ra says the guide then led the party in darkness along a dangerous path with a twelve-story drop and through the narrow entrance to the Queen’s Chamber, where the lights miraculously came on again.
 

 
With the evenhandedness that is one of his biography’s strengths, Szwed at once casts doubt on Ra’s version of events and adds a strange detail that seems to confirm his supernatural powers:

They climbed the staircase, crawled through the low entrances, and slipped through the narrow corridors in order to reach the King’s Chamber, and as they did the lights suddenly went out. Sun Ra later said that he had chanted the name of Ra nine times when it happened, although [eyewitness Hartmut] Geerken remembered only Sun Ra saying, “Why do we need light, Sun Ra, the sun is here.” Whatever, they managed to walk back out through the darkness. (When Sun Ra recounted this story to writer Robert Palmer in 1978 at the Beacon Theater in New York, the lights went out in the theater, leaving a dead spot in the middle of the tape recording as evidence.)

After the jump, candid footage of the Sun Ra and his Arkestra visiting the pyramids…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.13.2016
09:16 am
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Danna nanna nanna nanna SUN RAAAAAA: The space-jazz guru’s astounding ‘Batman and Robin’ LP
03.31.2015
09:34 am
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In 1966, an unremarkable-seeming children’s album called Batman and Robin was released, by an insignificant label called Tifton Records, to cash in on the very popular Adam West Batman TV series. Apart from the remake of the TV show’s theme, the album was mostly instrumental, and had nothing in particular to do with Batman, but it remains an item of interest because of who played on it. While it was credited to “The Sensational Guitars of DAN & DALE,” the actual studio band was made up of members of Al Kooper’s Blues Project and Sun Ra’s Arkestra! Organs on the Batman and Robin album are played by Ra, saxes are performed by Arkestra stalwarts Marshall Allen and John Gilmore, and guitars are played by the Blues Project’s legendary Steve Katz and Danny Kalb. (Kalb is the only “Dan” present; there is no one named Dale in the credits as far as I can find. It should be mentioned that there are a ton of crappy albums credited to Dan & Dale on the Diplomat label, and I can’t imagine there’s any way that the Arkestra and Blues Project played on them. That’s a junkyard rabbit-hole for another day, though.) The album—and again, this was marketed to children to cash in on a goofy TV show—is accordingly badass, full of satisfying soul riffs and fiery surf-guitar leads. It also nods to classical music and the Beatles. Per Bruce Eder’s deeply-researched Allmusic overview:

No, Batman and Robin doesn’t match the importance of the Blues Project’s own official recordings, or anything that Sun Ra was doing officially, but what a chance to hear these guys kicking back for a half-hour’s anonymous blues jamming. Everything here, apart from the Neal Hefti “Batman Theme” is public domain blues built on some familiar material (including Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Bach), one cut, appropriately entitled “The Riddler’s Retreat,” quotes riffs and phrases from a half-dozen Beatles songs, and another, “The Bat Cave,” that’s this group’s answer to “Green Onions” (and a good answer, too). Along with Sun Ra, who dominates every passage he plays on, Steve Katz and Danny Kalb are the stars here, romping and stomping over everything as they weave around each other, while Gilmore, Allen, and Owens occasionally stepping to the fore, Blumenfeld makes his percussion sound downright tuneful in a few spots, and some anonymous female singers throw out a lyric or two on a pair of cuts, just as a distraction.

 

 
As Eder pointed out, the female singer on the following two tracks is uncredited. Whoever she is, good GOD, she deserves her accolades, especially for the blowout performance on “Robin’s Theme!”
 

Sun Ra & the Blues Project, “Batman Theme.”
 
More Sun Ra and the Blues Project after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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03.31.2015
09:34 am
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‘In the Orbit of Ra’: New Sun Ra collection curated by Arkestra saxophonist Marshall Allen
09.23.2014
11:08 am
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Sun Ra might need little introduction to many readers of this blog, I’d expect, so I’ll keep this brief: Sun Ra was once Herman Blount from Alabama except that he was always Sun Ra from the planet Saturn. He was a jazz bandleader and visionary whose career spanned the ragtime and free jazz eras, during which he dove deep into the avant garde, forming a band (“Arkestra”) that was as much a commune as a musical group. His work touched heavily on, among many other things, African/Egyptian themes, outer space, Kabbalism, and Gnosticism. Ra’s music, lifestyle, beliefs and personality were far too esoteric for anything even remotely like mainstream acceptance to find him, but he nonetheless recorded prolifically, and brought a heavy influence to bear on psychedelia and funk. Just last year, he came to somewhat wider public attention when Lady Gaga heavily quoted his “Rocket Number 9” in her single “Venus.”

Sun Ra left us in 1993, but had he lived, 2014 would have been his 100th year. His still-living stalwart saxophonist Marshall Allen continues, at the age of 90, to lead the Arkestra, and he’s recently compiled a collection for Strut Records, spanning 25 years of Sun Ra Arkestra music, remastered from the original tapes, and it’s being touted as “the first internationally released compilation to provide an introduction to the music of Sun Ra.” It’s called In the Orbit of Ra, and the CD and digital are out this week. (Those of us who prefer vinyl apparently have to wait until October. Boo.) An admirable lid has been kept on its contents—only one remastered track is available for streaming, the late ‘50s composition “Plutonian Nights:”
 

 
New mini-documentary on Sun Ra after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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09.23.2014
11:08 am
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‘The Black Man in the Cosmos’: Sun Ra teaches at UC Berkeley, 1971
07.18.2014
09:48 am
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The first thing I’d do with a time machine is point it to Berkeley, California, 1971. Those are the spacetime coordinates of the Afro-American Studies course Sun Ra taught at UC Berkeley. I’ve never been able to find an image of an original syllabus, but the reading list reportedly included the King James Bible, Blavatsky, Ouspensky, Radix by Bill Looney, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, LeRoi Jones’ Black Fire, The Real History of the Rosicrucians, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians, The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries, OAHSPE, and In the Pronaos of the Temple of Wisdom.

According to John F. Szwed’s scholarly biography Space Is The Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra, when students complained that some of these books were impossible to find, their professor “merely smiled knowingly”—of course the books that disclosed the secret history of the world were hard to come by. Szwed describes the class:

“Every week during the spring quarter of 1971 he met his class, Afro-American Studies 198: ‘The Black Man in the Cosmos,’ in a large room in the music department building. Although a respectable number of students signed up, after a couple of classes it was down to a handful (‘What could you expect with a course named like that,’ Sun Ra once chortled). [...] But it was a proper course—Sun Ra had after all trained to be a teacher in college—with class handouts, assignments, and a reading list which made even the most au courant sixties professors’ courses pale.

[...] In a typical lecture, Sun Ra wrote biblical quotes on the board and then ‘permutated’ them—rewrote and transformed their letters and syntax into new equations of meaning, while members of the Arkestra passed through the room, preventing anyone from taping the class. His lecture subjects included Neoplatonic doctrines; the application of ancient history and religious texts to racial problems; pollution and war; and a radical reinterpretation of the Bible in light of Egyptology.”

Apparently, the Arkestra’s agents failed to prevent the taping of Sun Ra’s May 4 lecture, a recording of which surfaced on the double-CD set The Creator Of The Universe. Though the recording starts and ends abruptly in mid-sentence, it’s actually of higher fidelity than much of the master’s officially sanctioned musical product (just listen to the tapping of the chalk on the board). The whole thing is worth listening to, but for me the climax comes around the 37-minute mark. “If you’re not mad at the world, you don’t have what it takes,” Sun Ra told his musicians, and towards the end of the lecture, the questions of a tardy student seem to touch a nerve. Prof. Ra’s improvised response is an impassioned summary of his militant, gnostic philosophy:

“I’m thinking about the future of black Egypt, which is outside of the realm of history. History has been very unkind to black people, so actually what I’m always talking about is the myth, and nothing that has ever been is part of what I’m talking about, because I’m saying that black folks need a myth-ocracy instead of a de-mocracy. Because they’re not gonna make it in anything else. They’re not gonna make it in history[. . .]

You see, that’s what’s wrong with y’all. Now here you walk in, the last man to get in here, and you gonna ask questions. But honesty is not what I’m talking about. You’re not in a place where truth can do you any good. So you gonna have to come to me privately, and we’ll talk about things that can help the black race. Truth has been abolished, so any truth you say is not permissible in here, because it never done anybody any good. Now, I’m dealing with things that can do you some good. If I come across the biggest lie in the universe, if it can help the black race, then I’m gonna use it. That’s fair warning to anybody, any nation on the face of the earth. I’m gonna use anything I find, and any weapon that I find.

Now I find that the truth is not permissible for me to use. Because I’m not righteous and holy; I’m evil. That’s because I’m black. And I’m not a striver to any righteousness. I never been righteous, I’m never going to be righteous. So now I’m evil. I’m the incarnation of evil. I’m black. I’m following their dictionary. Now I’m dealing with equations. I can’t go around and tell you I’m ‘right’ or ‘good’ when the dictionary is telling everybody in the world everything black is evil and wicked, so then I come and say, ‘Yes. So what? Yes, I’m wicked. Yes, I’m evil.’ I’m not gonna be converted. I’m not gonna strive to righteousness. I don’t wanna go to heaven, because good folks don’t never do nothing but be good, and they always failing, and they always getting killed, and they frustrating. So all I see on this planet is something evil like the white man being successful, and successful, and successful, and successful.

And I see evil killing black men every day, destroying him. Why should I be good? No, it’s better for me to come up to the white race and say, ‘Yes. We evil people should sit down to the table and talk together. You’re evil, I’m evil too. Now, them other folks that you’re dealing with are good black folks. I’m not good, and you’re not good. We understand one another.’”

This is before he gets to explaining that white people are evil and wicked because “they were made evil and wicked in imitation of the evil and wicked black man,” but you should really just listen to the whole thing.

Listen to, or download the entire thing at Sensitive Skin

Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.18.2014
09:48 am
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Sun Ra master tapes and other items on eBay
04.09.2014
03:39 pm
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An interesting lot of Sun Ra items has come up for auction on eBay with the opening bid of $20,000:

Sun Ra (1914-1993) used Variety Recording Studio in the 1960s to 1980s.  SUN RA STAMPERS, MOTHERS – 10 total + possibly 2 more that might or not be Sun Ra   11-1-79A 9-1213-85A 10-14-85B mother 1984B 1984C 1984D SRA 2000B     mother 10-3B-6888A   mother 10-3B-6888B   mother 10-3B-6888A John Cage Meets Sun Ra Included in the batch are two more:  12-31-80 A&B Which might or might not be Sun Ra’s. STAMPERS:    After material is recorded, it can be transferred from tape to a “master tape,” from which “acetate records” or if quantities are desired, the tape is “mastered” in order that “stampers” can be manufactured. Stampers for the two sides of a record are then placed in an oven-like machine where labels are inserted, an oily substance is injected,  and one record at a time is “pressed.” The pressings can be in any quantity, and a stamper usually can make at least 1000 copies unless it breaks because of the heat and needs to be re-done.  MOTHERS For larger quantities, a “mother” is made, and from that as many stampers as are desired can be pressed. CAVEAT The metal stampers/mothers are sold as a batch with the caveat that, unless a pressing plant with equipment similar to that used in the 1960s to 1980s can be found, no pressings could be made. It is possible that none of the present stampers can be used to make further pressings. However, it might be possible to digitize the data in order that a digital master could be created for digitally downloadable and CD creations. The stampers and mothers are particularly of interest as mementoes of the work by one of the last century’s great jazz bandleaders. They are sold “as is.” The buyer could re-sell the individual stampers. They are not sold for the purpose of infringing upon the rights of copyright holders. The materials offered have always been the property only of the seller.

 

 
The “Buy It Now” price for the entire lot is $26,000. It seems like you would be taking a big chance spending that kind of money with these caveats (especially if all the master tapes still exist). If, however, this music is currently being held captive by an obsolete technology, in recent years “lost” music was transferred (via laser I believe) from metal stampers dating from the 1930s containing two songs from blues legend Robert Johnson. Hard to tell what treasure awaits the buyer.

Here’s Sun Ra & his Arkestra live at the Chicago Jazz Festival 1981. The man certainly knew how to make an entrance!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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04.09.2014
03:39 pm
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Sun Ra’s business cards: ‘Why buy old sounds?’
10.05.2013
03:41 pm
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Sun Ra
 
These little cards and advertisements that Sun Ra had printed up during his Chicago days in the 1950s are fantastic.
 
Why buy old sounds?
 
Note that the DRexel telephone number is different on this one, by one digit:
Saturn Records
 
Those Atonites
 
Cosmic Rays
 
Possibly he didn’t have this ticket printed up, but it’s still nice:
Atonites
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Sun Ra on Detroit TV, 1981
‘Pink Elephants on Parade’ ala Sun Ra and his Arkestra

Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.05.2013
03:41 pm
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Invasion of the mindsnatcher: Sun Ra on ‘Saturday Night Live’ 1978
07.24.2013
02:08 pm
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Posted by Marc Campbell
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07.24.2013
02:08 pm
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Sun Ra, A Space Odyssey: From Birmingham to The Big Apple, the quest begins
03.11.2013
02:01 pm
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image
 
Given the rather daunting size of the Sun Ra catalog (over 100 known recordings, with plenty of semi-bootleg releases still turning up 20 years after his death) as well as its extreme stylistic breadth, there’s no set answer or even a remotely definitive list to give to someone when they ask “Where do you start?” when it comes to diving into the life’s work of the enigmatic Sun Ra.

In my own case, it was literally some Sun Ra CDs that I found, and that worked just fine for me, but finally veteran music journalist Kris Needs has provided a methodical and archival approach to Sun Ra’s oeuvre with the new 3CD box set, Sun Ra: A Space Odyssey.

Dating back to Sun Ra’s earliest days as a working musician and arranger in Chicago and his initial flight as a bandleader, for the most part, what’s on display here is slightly adventuresome big band music. The futuristic outer space mutant bop cacophony of the Arkestra was still to come, although there are hints of it aplenty in these early recordings.

Sun Ra: A Space Odyssey is the kind of detailed box set that could have only been put together by an expert’s expert, with a profound love for Sun Ra’s music. I can’t stop listening to it. Kris Needs has done music fans a great favor by compiling A Space Odyssey, I can only hope that he and Fantastic Voyage Records have future Sun Ra sets like this one in store for us. 10/10.

Below, Edward O. Bland’s 1959 quasi-documentary short, Cry of Jazz. Scenes of the Arkestra were filmed between 1956 and 1958, before the band and its leader began wearing the distinctive Egyptian and science fiction-styled headdresses and costumes they would later become well-known for:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.11.2013
02:01 pm
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