Sun Ra and His Arkestra: Towards An Ending

28th December 2016

Title: At Intermedia Arts April 1991

Label: Modern Harmonic

He was a unique man of jazz, combining an image and a ‘history’ that reached back into ancient Egypt complete with associated and complementary costumes merged with a science fiction element that talked of connections to outer space. That was one side. But once you tackled the image and the details that surrounded the man’s music you then had to tackle the music itself, not in terms of style but how it was packaged because Sun Ra tended to release his works on very limited batches of vinyl that was often decorated by himself and his band. Often, his releases would feature incorrect concert dates an even incorrect line up information! For those who want to know more, let me direct you to determined fan, Robert L. Campbell who is a good quality resource in terms of sorting out the messy facts and figures.

Despite apparently arriving on earth from another planet, Sun Ra was a real musical innovator. For example, he produced notable work with early and primitive electric keyboards and was a very early exponent of free jazz.

Sun Ra would die in 1993 so this particular live concert, recorded in 1991 and spread over two sets, is of note and offers some poignancy because of it. He had already been hit by a stroke two months prior to this gig but bounced back here. Vocalist, June Tyson had also been diagnosed with cancer at this time so this was probably her last performance.

Titles include the old favourite, Advice to Medics (which may be a pointer to that stroke), Hocus Locus – noted for the searing John Gilmore sax solo and Space is the Place (the band’s theme tune). The second set is intriguing by the almost Frank Zappa-esque vocal from T.C. Carney on Early Autumn while Gilmore is almost mournful on Opus in Springtime.

This is a worthy concert and is a fine addition to the archives for any Sun Ra fans. It was broadcast on WNYC on 9 November 1991 while the occasion was part of a series entitled the New Jazz Network Tour.