"At some point in time, Sun Ra or one of his associates archived the quartet recordings he’d made in Italy in 1978 with John Gilmore, Michael Ray and Luqman Ali. There were quite a few tapes, originally with good quality sound. Time passed. Some of the music from these tapes was used for releases on Sun Ra’s own Saturn Records label, appearing on the albums MEDIA DREAM, DISCO 3000 and THE SOUND MIRROR, as well as the rare Saturn single DISCO 2100 I SKY BLUES. Now, some original tapes of this 1978 material have surfaced, and the music can be heard again in its original contest. Art Yard has already issued one such recording as THE COMPLETE DISCO 3000 CONCERT. Here now is another, containing music from another night, probably another venue, on Sun Ra’s one and only Quartet tour, in Italy in 1978.
This particular tape contains much fine music, and clarifies some questions, establishing long suspected links between various Saturn albums. And of course, as it concerns Sun Ra, it raises as many questions as it answers. There is an issue with sound quality with this recording. This particular tape is no longer in audiophile condition. It does appear to be the original master, rather than a copy, but is now in a poor state. Art Yard have rescued it in the nick of time and have gone to considerable lengths to improve its quality. The tape is a valuable document, preserving the music in its original concert sequence, and is also important as it turns out to be the source for some tracks from the Sun Ra albums MEDIA DREAM and THE SOUND MIRROR.
This concert recording, as it survives today, presents seven compositions.
“Friendly Galaxy”, which opens this tape, is a very different performance from that captured in Milan on January 1978. There, it was a supporting framework for “Third Planet”, here it is explored at some length, with fine solos from Sun Ra and Michael Ray. Although it’s the start of this tape, it is likely that it was not not the beginning of the concert. It’s a fine performance.
“An Unknowneth Love” originally appeared as the final track on MEDIA DREAM. Sun Ra’s piano is succeeded by Luqman Ali’s percussion, faded out on the original LP, now heard unedited in its original length.
The following piece, “Of Other Tomorrows Never Known”, was originally a highlight of the Saturn album THE SOUND MIRROR. Here is the uncut version, appreciably longer than on the LP. This version is still centred on the same key sequence: a Sun Ra keyboard improvisation succeeded by aJohn Gilmore tenor saxophone solo. As on the original LP, you can hear Sun Ra calling out verbal instructions in several places – this is instant composition rather than a pre-planned piece.
“Images” , which follows this piece, was never previously released in its entirity. However one section of it was indeed used on a Saturn album. Faded in at the start of the fabulous John Gilmore tenor solo, it became “Twigs at Twilight”, arguably the finest track on MEDIA DREAM. It is very satisfying to hear it in its complete form at last. Gilmore’s solo is preceded by fine work from Michael Ray on trumpet and Sun Ra on keyboards, afterwards there are further contributions from Sun Ra and Luqman Ali before the theme is restated.
This may be the earliest recorded version of “Bad Truth”, one of Sun Ra’s chants. Rhythmic and repetitive, the singers insist that “The Truth about Planet Earth is a Bad Truth, a Bad Truth.” Sun Ra, Michael Ray and John Gilmore all take their turn at the main stage microphone. It’s notable here how Sun Ra adapts such vocal pieces for the small group performing on this tour.
This is evident too on the succeeding pice, “Space Is The Place”. As with “Bad Truth”, there is a piano introduction, and a backing beat from Luqman Ali, but at the core of the piece are the interwoven vocal lines of Sun Ra, Michael Ray and John Gilmore. These two musicians provide both vocal and instrumental contributions here, alternating between the two roles much more frequently they would than in a larger Arkestra. Such small-group adaptations are a really interesting aspect of this Sun Ra Quartet tour.
The music then segues into the final selection, “The Shadow World” It’s incomplete – the tape runs out during John Gilmore’s solo, and it’s very likely that many minutes of this piece are missing, and it’s probable too this was not the final piece played that night.
This release is an excellent complement to Art Yard’s previous CD release THE COMPLETE DISCO 3000 CONCERT, and helps tell more of the story of this unique quartet tour of Italy in 1978. It doesn’t resolve all the mysteries – where is the master tape which contains the other four tracks of MEDIA DREAM? Which 1978 Italain concert gave rise to ‘:Jazzisticology”, issued on the Saturn album THE SOUND MIRROR? There are other live concert recordings yet to be discovered, I hope."
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
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