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Sun Ra

Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial. He did not make it easy for people to take him seriously, for he surrounded his adventurous music with costumes and mythology that both looked backward toward ancient Egypt and forward into science fiction. In addition, Ra documented his music in very erratic fashion on his Saturn label, generally not listing recording dates and giving inaccurate personnel information, so one could not really tell how advanced some of his innovations were. It has taken a lot of time to sort it all out (although Robert L. Campbell's Sun Ra discography has done a miraculous job). In addition, while there were times when Sun Ra's aggregation performed brilliantly, on other occasions they were badly out of tune and showcasing absurd vocals. Near the end of his life, Ra was featuring plate twirlers and fire eaters in his colorful show as a sort of Ed Sullivan for the 1980s.

But despite all of the trappings, Sun Ra was a major innovator. Born Herman Sonny Blount in Birmingham, AL (although he claimed he was from another planet), Ra led his own band for the first time in 1934. He freelanced at a variety of jobs in the Midwest, working as a pianist/arranger with Fletcher Henderson in 1946-1947. He appeared on some obscure records as early as 1948, but really got started around 1953. Leading a big band (which he called the Arkestra) in Chicago, Ra started off playing advanced bop, but early on was open to the influences of other cultures, experimenting with primitive electric keyboards, and playing free long before the avant-garde got established.

After moving to New York in 1961, Ra performed some of his most advanced work. In 1970, he relocated his group to Philadelphia, and in later years alternated free improvisations and mystical group chants with eccentric versions of swing tunes, sounding like a spaced-out Fletcher Henderson orchestra. Many of his most important sidemen were with him on and off for decades (most notably John Gilmore on tenor, altoist Marshall Allen, and baritonist Pat Patrick). Ra, who recorded for more than a dozen labels, has been well served by Evidence's extensive repackaging of many of his Saturn dates, which have at last been outfitted with correct dates and personnel details. In the late '90s, other labels began reissuing albums from Sun Ra's vast catalog, an effort that will surely continue for years to come. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Sleeping Beauty

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Track List: Plutonian Nights (Single)

Comments

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Sun Ra is my hero!
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Great chillin' for me since 2001
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A true musical genius. Stumbled across his music 3 years ago and haven't played anything else since. I ran across Ronnie Boykins and Gilmore before Sun Ra - Go figure. Always been a big Archie Shepp fan. Happy to see Shepp in various videos with Sun Ra and the Sun Ra documentary.

I'm far from listening to the majority of his work, but so far, my top three Sun Ra songs are Restropect, Friend and Friendship and Moon Dance.

What's yours?
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What planet is this?
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STARCHILD HERE!
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Amazing innovator!
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paulsharar
Just takes ya away somewhere new and enlightening .
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God
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trentonmasse y _ a s p
Scott Yanow(writer of bio) = blowhard.... . . . . A s t r o Black.....AS T R O BLACK!!!!
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PEOPLE DID NOT GET SUN RA HE WAS WAY OUT THERE
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HE WAS BEFOR HIS TIME
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65.5mustang6 5 . 5
Took a class from him @UCBerkeley in 1971. This was the most prepared teacher I ever had & by far the most spectacular class I ever attended. Ra lectured on the nature of man, Egypt, spirit & music, then he wld play & the whole arkestra wld march around this little classroom playing too--Gilmore , Allen, Tyson. Just like their concerts, class wld end w/ Ra performing solo at the sythesizer while the rest of the players sold albums to the few students & many non-students who attended weekly. F
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eagrant21
Arguably the most far ranging and disciplined musicians ever to appear on this planet. Some of Arkestra's members remain giants who are still largely unknown to many who consider themselves jazz aficionados. Many have successfully scared away by labels
a mm do dismissed as nut. Unfortunatel y they never looked into the body of esoteric scholarship that lay behind what appear to be outlandish statements. I am blessed to have been a friend of he and the Arkestra's members for over 23 years.
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He wa be for his time
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saw him at the blue moon in seattle,late 80's...very small venue, they were not more than 25 ft. away from me, and the sax player ended up sitting with me at my table right up front,off and on the whole evening..... g o t first-hand insight into what is NOT just a gig.....salu t a t i o n s to the cosmic visionary One!!
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I love Sun Ra. Saw him in Detroit at Alvins near Wayne State. Space was the place that evening, he was AWESOME!!! RIP MY SPACE TRAVELER. Got turned on to him by a boyfriend. That was one good thing about that relationship . l o l
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Pre George Clinton.... got my Boots on.
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Sun Ra. Genius!
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just is
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Saw SunRa play at The Morris estate in West Philly 1976
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jeanjacque2
introduced to his work by some heads in college, but I was clearly not ready for it back then. plan to explore it now. thanks Pandora!
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dmerrill252
Sun Ra did a Halloween concert at a church on 48th & Baltimore in Philly. He had images of ghost flying around the pulpit with his trademark lighting rod hat on. The music and atmosphere was insanely mystical. Had a wonderful experience.

DM
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angelo.pasto r m e r l o
Saw him live only once. He actually participated in a Greenwich Village Halloween Parade in the late 1970s/early 1980s when it used to start in WestBeth and end up in Washington Square Park. So it was a wandering Sun Ra Arkestra of probably upwards of ten people.
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COSMIC...... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Had the pleasure of hearing the Ether Arkestra perform in NYC in 1995 after Sun Ra had passed away. They still sounded amazing, but I would love to have heard them while he was still alive...
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Space is the place!
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bfotsch456
Will listen to his other stuff, as this intrigued me
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what do you do when you know that you know that you know that you're wrong????
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Definitely influenced Zappa! not vice versa.
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WHERE the hell is SUN SONG???????? ? ? ?
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There seems to be a lot of important albums that Pandora does NOT have.
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2nd rate ? not in terms of originality- h i s muscians were first rate and his originality has never been surpassed.sa w him in the seventies-at mary jane's in sacramento,c a . t h i s guy in this egyptian gear playing crazed organ as his sidemen went up and down the aisles showing paintings by sun ra...
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Reminds me of Zappa a bit, with the kind of improvisatio n . Maybe it's just me, but one or the other may have been influnced by the other.
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In the 70's I saw Sun Ra at the Candlelight Lounge in Trenton, NJ.
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artofgain
Musically says a lot, yet uses few words, The benchmark of a true genius.
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true genius, absolutely insane, but genius... he's my favorite jazz musician, and a great addition to any ambient station
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get the hell out of here. second rate? hell nah. and in Egyptian religion its both sun ra and sun re.
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second rate
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dbgoren
this guy is great but it is sun re not sun ra be correct to the eygypian myths cool guy tho
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totaly out there. way to go, take music and kick it in the face, Ra!
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The legacy of Sun Ra was presented to me by a guy named David Dilworth...l i s t e n i n g to all the elements in Sun Ra's arranegement s , you enter into a folkloric space of modern invention so that you feel connected and disconnected at the same time. Anyway, thats my feeling...co o l material
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Trivia item: Pat Patrick is the father of Massachusett s governor Deval Patrick.
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matthew-zing g
to far out places
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jon_e33
astro travellin

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