Everything i love about Sun Ra condensed into 2 discs with a 3-man Arkestra crack team. Beautiful sunsets, destructive solar exposions, the great cosmic drama painted on the canvas of one listeners imagination. Between swing and free.
Favorite track: Sun Of The Cosmos.
"The Disco 3000 session serves as a gigantic milestone in my musical career and shock treatment indoctrination in the world of Jazz taught by the Master himself Sun Ra. To give the listener the inside scoop about the recording sessions in Italy, one would have to begin with how I met Sun Ra. While performing with John Minis’ 21-piece big band at the People’s Music Festival in Germantown. Sun Ra and the Arkestra were the headliners. I first noticed that all of the musicians had suitcases filled with music under their chairs. I introduced myself to one of the trumpet players, Ahmed Abdullah and was amazed at how much music everyone in the band had. Their performance was bizarre to say the least! With 4 brass, 7 in the reed section, 3 trap drummers and everyone in the band playing percussion with 5 beautiful dancers, Sun Ra took the audience to another level. Some weeks later I happen to see him on the trolley and told him how much I enjoyed his set. He invited me to a rehearsal and said they were headed to Egypt. Unfortunately, I had prior commitments. Months later, I saw him again and the invitation was presented again.
This time I took him up on it. When I walked in the door of 5626 Morton Street my life certainly changed. Here in the middle of the room sat Sun Ra surrounded by music, keyboards, and lots of Egyptian art. He told me “I know everything you need to know about music”. He then asked me if I knew any standards. I replied “a couple”. He asked if I knew “Lady Bird”. I said yes. He replied that it has the same changes as “Half Nelson” and we proceeded to play both songs at the same time. Then in 5/4 and 6/8 and 7/4 with John Gilmore. That one song was dissected for over 3 hours. We rehearsed for 3 days in the same fashion and then opened up in NYC where all these other musicians showed up with suitcases of music. This was the first time I got a chance to hear Sun Ra play acoustic piano and when he played somewhere over the rainbow, I knew he was a master! Next I got a call from him asking if I could come to Chicago with the band for a week. Of course I said yes. We played at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase.
The very next phone call from Sun Ra was from Rome, Italy. He asked if I was able to come to Rome to record an album. I jumped at the chance! Luckily I already had a passport from my travels with the singing pop group the Stylistics.
I had traveled to Japan and South America with them but had never been to Europe, nor recorded a Jazz album. The winter of ’78, I headed to Rome not knowing what to expect but knowing I was in good hands with Sunny (As everybody close to him called him) John Gilmore and Luqman Ali. Sun Ra would get up everyday at dawn. We would then drive over to Media Dreams, a small studio run by Andreas and Algie, very good friends of the band. Andreas was credited with the development of the Walkman, which he sold to Sony Company. It was here that most of my early dues were paid. Sun Ra would tell me “You’re playing your horn alright but try my way, unless you have some sort of mental block. Play that apple. Remember it’s round so think of 360 degrees of sound and color. It’s red which means its energy deals with the first chakra, you have to be able to play the ‘vibration’ ”. We rehearsed like this from early in the morning to late at night for days. It was like having someone erase your main frame and reboot your hard drive! Sunny always said expect the unexpected. “We might have a gig on Mars one day so you got to be swinging on your horn, because they don’t party like earthlings”. Two days before the gig Sunny decides at a production meeting that he wants to show his movie Space is the Place without the sound and have the quartet set up behind the screen playing along with the visuals of the film. Of the material played my favorite is “Dance of the Cosmo Aliens” which I went on to record with my band the Cosmic Krewe. So here you are. As a listener, you hold documentation of the cosmic conversion. Astrophysics plus Egyptian hieroglyphics equal Space is the place.
Sun Ra and Gilmore stayed in Europe and Luqman and I returned to the States carrying Ra’s keyboards and the heavy 36mm film canisters which were confiscated by Customs. When Sunny returned stateside and learned this, he went to the Customs house armed with x-rated mags and said “you have my film of beauty and art locked up and yet you sell pictures of naked pussies downstairs in your lobby” Needless to say they released his film."
Words by Michael Ray.
"In the winter of 1977-8, philosopher, pianist and bandleader Sun Ra was to be found in Italy. He may have made two trips there, or made one extended stay: at this distance from these events it's difficult to be sure. (There's usually a mystery where Sun Ra is concerned.) Sun Ra's musical activity that winter is well attested: a CD from a piano concert in Venice in November 1977, two double albums cut in the studio for the Horo label in January 1978. The Italian tour also resulted in releases on Sun Ra's own Saturn label, although the records have long been out of print and all but impossible to find.
With the re-release of DISCO 3000 and MEDIA DREAMS, two of these elusive Saturn albums and arguably among the most important documents of Sun Ra's long musical career, are now once more available. They represent a real pinnacle of creativity, even for this prolific period of the late 1970s, when his record output hit a peak: 1977-8 saw some twenty Sun Ra albums, plus two video documents.
DISCO 3000 and MEDIA DREAMS are pivotal: a unique chance to hear Sun Ra's music expounded in live performance by a quartet, rather than his full Arkestra.
Sun Ra was joined in Italy by saxophonist John Gilmore, trumpeter Michael Ray and drummer Luqman Ali. Sun Ra himself played piano and electronic keyboards, including a Crumar Mainman.
The sparse instrumentation is based on extraordinary and worthy contrasts. Luqman Ali played drums with Sun Ra around 1960, as Edward Skinner. This 1978 group represents his reappearance after an apparent absence of many years. The saxophone of John Gilmore, a soloist in Sun Ra aggregations since the early 1950s, is paired with the trumpet of relative newcomer Michael Ray. Ray's exposure as a soloist here is considerable - far greater than in his role in the Arkestra. The partnership of Gilmore and Ray, combined with the prominence and nature of Sun Ra's electronics, gives these albums their unique flavour.
Sun Ra's keyboard work expands here to supply both bass lines (some pre-programmed) and electronic percussion. From this perspective it is interesting to compare this music to that on an earlier 'electronic' album of Sun Ra's, "My Brother The Wind" - Ra had developed a much wider group role for his electronics by this point.
The Crumar Mainman used on DISCO 3000 and MEDIA DREAMS is an instrument of some mystery. Apparently undocumented by Crumar (which folded in 1987), it seems to have been made in very small numbers. Sun Ra bought his Mainman in Italy during this 1977-8 tour. In an interview with Len Lyons for Keyboard magazine, he describes it as "like a piano, organ, clavichord, cello, violin and brass instruments." The Crumar keyboard pictured circa 1978 in Robert Mugge's Sun Ra documentary "Sound of Joy" is probably the same Mainman. Sun Ra seems to have abandoned the Mainman by 1980. (The instrument made at least one other appearance on record: Martin O'Cuthbert's "Navigator Through Nowhere", recorded in England in 1979, features the Mainman.)
The music presented on DISCO 3000 and MEDIA DREAMS steers clear, by and large, of the better known Sun Ra repertoire. The title track of DISCO 3000 and all the selections from MEDIA DREAMS are taken from sections of concert performance: relatively open structures, with relatively few predetermined sections. Sun Ra steers the pieces with keyboard interventions. Melodic sections are introduced, evolve, are reprised. Most notably, bass patterns are used for lengthy sections - something new in Ra's music at this time. Most of the pieces are instant compositions, never to be repeated. (Did Gilmore ever play another solo quite like that on "Twigs At Twilight"?)
The recognisable tunes do include one rare Ra composition ("Third Planet"), as well as the traditional "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" thinly disguised as "Dance of the CosmoAliens". This whole Sun Ra quartet project from Italy in early
1978 has a particular 'experimental' feel, unique in a particular way in Sun Ra's huge and varied recorded output. Innovation is hardly unexpected from Sun Ra - his music regularly pushes
the envelope. However, this project represents a tryout for a different kind of music altogether, a small-group music. In the end it was a musical path Sun Ra left unexplored, it has little in the way of precedent or sequel on record. It has stood the test of time well."
Words by Chris Trent.
released August 30, 2017
Sun Ra - Piano, Organ, Moog Synth, rhythm machine
John Gilmore - Tenor Sax, Drums, Vocals
Michael Ray - Trumpet, Vocals
Luqman Ali - Drums, Vocals
Produced for Art Yard by Peter Dennett.
Transferred and Mastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works.
Liner notes by Michael Ray and Chris Trent.
Originally released on The Saturn Record Label Cat#CMIJ 78.
Publishing and Copyright 2017 Art Yard Ltd and Enterplanetary Koncepts.
Special thanks to Sun Ra, John Gilmore, June Tyson, Marshall Allen, Charles Davis, Pat Patrick, Michael Ray, Luqman Ali, Danny Ray Thompson, Knoel Scott, Elson Nascimento and The Sun Ra Alter Destiny 21st Century Epic Cosmic Myth Science Arkestra band members, Thomas Jenkins Jr (Managing Director, Sun Ra LLC), Michael D. Anderson (Sun Ra Music Archives), Irwin Chusid (administrator, Sun Ra LLC), Quinton Scott at Strut, Paul Griffiths, Chris Trent, Hartmut Geerken, Cornelia Mueller, Val Wilmer, Francis Gooding, Anya Arnold, Edwin Pouncey, Jill Tipping, John Sinclair, Leni Sinclair, Rick Steiger, Carey Hamblett, Chris Cutler, Dave Pelts at RER Megacorp.
The cosmic jazz master would have celebrated his 100th earth year in 2014 but his catalogue of over 150 albums, his unique
philosophy and his legendary live performances live on for a new generation. The Arkestra lives on, under the direction of Marshall Allen....more