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May 23, 2013

A Moonship Journey with Sun Ra

Yesterday was Sun Ra's birthday.  99 years ago he arrived on this minuscule rock in our universe.  And with his arrival Jazz was changed forever.  Sun Ra oozed creativity, diversity, and change during an era of Jazz that needed all of the above.  His discography is deep and eclectic offering a magnitude of atmospheric music for any mood. 

I like to think Carl Sagan listened to Sun Ra. [Image Source]
With the advent of his birthday, I am making an excuse to dive into his discog for a few days.  I have been listening to Sun Ra for years, and still only feel like I am at the surface of his enormous catalog.  But there's one album I continue to return to, Cosmos.  A mid 1970s recording issued on the Cobra label; I am reminded of Pharoah Sanders' Impulse cuts from the decade earlier.  Perfect ambient tones along with exciting ensemble sections.  

Solo and ensemble wise, the horn parts are immaculate here.  And the warm buzz of the low ends of electric bass amalgamates with Sun Ra's Rocksichord playing.  My favorite track is "Moonship Journey."  It starts off with a 45 second melodic solo by Mr. Ra before he kicks into a rhythmic groove setting a precident for the Arkestra as they begin chanting, "Prepare for the Moonship journey... Journey on the Moonship."  Which is exactly what you need to do for Cosmos.
1976 - Cobra.
Sun Ra - Keyboards [Rocksichord]; Danny Davis, Marshall Allen - Alto Saxophone, Flute; Danny Ray Thompson - Baritone Saxophone, Flute; Eloe Omoe - Bass Clarinet, Flute; Jac Jackson - Bassoon, Flute; Larry Bright - Drums; R. Anthony Bunn - Electric Bass; Vincent Chancey - French Horn; John Gilmore - Tenor Saxophone; Craig Harris - Trombone; Ahmed Abdullah - Trumpet.

Other This Shape of Jazz posts on Sun Ra here.
My friend Devan Cook wrote this feature from the April 2011 issue of Propeller.