May 22, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
It's the 100th anniversary of afrofuturist Sun Ra's "Arrival" from the planet Saturn, by way of Alabama, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Listen to his Arkestra perform "Space Is The Place," as recorded by WBGO on April 21, 1991:
Sun Ra was born Herman Poole "Sonny" Blount in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914, and developed his persona and approach to music, which combined imagery from Egyptian mythology, Freemasonry and space travel, while based in Chicago in the 1940s.
His big band, the Arkestra, embodied this vision in sound and dress, and performed his sophisticated arrangements, which incorporated psychedelia, traditional African folk songs and bebop. His live shows were spiritual, and made a profound impression on those who saw them.
“When I saw Sun Ra on the banks of the Hudson in the late 1980s,” recalls JazzSet producer Becca Pulliam, “it was a long summer evening, the sun was setting, and he had a little electric keyboard. I wonder what powered it. He and the musicians were singing "We travel the space wa-aves .. from pla-net to pla-net .."
To celebrate Sun Ra's centennial, former Arkestra drummer Michael D. Anderson has digitally remastered and released more than twenty albums from the first half of his career, from 1957 through 1972, many of which have never been available in digital form. For more information, visit iTunes.
Happy anniversary, Sun Ra!
© 2014 WBGO