30-minutes of pure cosmic joy and wonder from Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Arkestra.
By 1972, Sun Ra had firmly established his Arkestra as a formidable presence on the global jazz circuit. While much of the scene was following Miles Davis and his various posses as he forged the templates for fusion and jazz rock, Sun Ra and his massive Arkestra were tapping decidedly unhip Big Band music, adding African drums and jumbo rhythms, and overtaking concert halls as if the bandleader were leading an alien invasion.
At the time, Sun Ra was on a recording tear. He and his band had released five albums since 1969 — including Atlantis, My Brother the Wind, The Night of the Purple Moon, My Brother the Wind Volume II (Otherness), and Solar Myth Approach Vols 1+2 — and were fully consumed in capturing the sound of cosmos.
And not just musically: Arkestra performances were full on productions, featuring costumes, choreographed dancers, drum circles, recitations, and buoyant worship. Echoes of Sun Ra’s ideas can be heard everywhere — including P-Funk’s galactic funk, Janelle Monae’s conceptual Afro-Futurism, Thundercat’s peacocking spirit, and beyond.
In fact, so deep is his influence that we often take it for granted. Which brings us to this start-of-the-week post: A 30-minute French TV broadcast from Jan. 8, 1972.
A whirlwind set that a half-century later remains as wildly inspiring and innovative as when the gig occurred, it finds dozens of Arkestra members worshipping rhythm and music while simultaneously creating it.
This set was released on a 2011 DVD, and captures the Arkestra just after they’d concluded their 1971 tour of Europe and Egypt.
They play four songs:
1 – Somebody Else’s Idea
2 – Watusi
3 – Discipline
4 – Synth
Tragically, the final one, Synth, cuts off just as Sun Ra was beginning what was likely an astounding solo. Regardless, you’ll exit this performance breathless at the Arkestra’s skills.
Listen to highlights from the selections. A master at comprehensive musical overviews and the thoughtful unpacking of brilliant sounds, writer Sasha Frere-Jones recently focused his attention on German […]