Sun Ra and his Arkestra – In the Orbit of Ra

“It’s a hundred years since Sun Ra — née Herman Poole ‘Sonny’ Blount — arrived on our planet (although Sun Ra never really admitted to being of this Earth). And to celebrate his centenary, the Art Yard and Strut labels have collaborated to produce this stonking compilation, a whistle-stop tour through the universe of Ra. … This compilation is a painstaking labour of love, put together by the current leader of the Arkestra, Marshall Allen, working with Peter Dennett of Art Yard, a label which has been responsible for numerous outstanding Sun Ra reissues over the years. In the Orbit of Ra features a treasure store of Ra rarities — drawing on previously unreleased and extended masters which haven’t appeared before on either CD or vinyl. Not surprisingly, Marshall Allen has the inside track on all things Sun Ra and as a result of his decades of collaboration with the man (or alien) himself, he has assembled a remarkably cogent and coherent collection unlike any previous compilation of the Arkestra’s music. Most of the tracks cluster around the late 1950s and early 60s — certainly a golden age for the Arkestra — but also features a handful of tunes from the late 1960s and early 70s, an equally fertile period. The collection kicks off with Somewhere in Space, a slow interstellar march punctuated by John L. Hardy’s drum and cymbals, which begins with the saxes and Phil Cohran’s cornet in lockstep before John Gilmore’s lyrical tenor and Marshall Allen’s precise flute rise above the ensemble playing, like smoke signals in alien skies. The elegiac mood yields to the irresistible rhythmic pulsing of Lady With Golden Stockings featuring Sun Ra himself on Wurlitzer electric piano, supported by haunted house saxophones and cowbell percussion. The punchy and compelling Somebody Else’s World again showcases Ra’s electronic keyboards (this time playing ‘intergalactic organ’) laying down tapestries of sound as background to June Tyson’s piercing vocals. Anyone who thinks Sun Ra’s music might be unapproachable and bristling with avant-garde mannerisms should have a listen to Spontaneous Simplicity (a CD-only track) with the gorgeous melodic lyricism of its flute and the fine lace filigree of Sun Ra’s piano. Or new listeners could start with the equally accessible, although in an utterly different way, Plutonian Nights which features the fat baritone sax of Pat Patrick and is as funky and infectiously swinging as you could ask, with sinuous figures being carved out in smoky nightclub air, somewhere in a pressure dome on everybody’s favourite dwarf planet. Robert Barry’s drums provide a dense background and then drop back to minimalist timekeeping while Ronnie Boykins’s bass provides a coolly groovy, angular commentary.  …”
London Jazz News
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: In The Orbit Of Ra: Arkestra Reflections On Sun Ra 17:11
YouTube: Angels And Demons At Play [Original Tape Master], Plutonian Nights (Original Tape Master)
****YouTube: Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Arkestra – Jazz Session (Live), 31:35, Sun Ra 1969 french TV (Live) 9:32

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