November 29, 2009

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght vol.1 (Universe UV080 CD)

Recorded at the third and final concert on August 5, 1970, Nuits de la Fondation Maeght Volume 1 was originally released on the French Shandar label in 1971. Often bootlegged, it was also legitimately reissued on 12-inch 45RPM LP by the British label, Recommended Records, in 1981. (My copy sounds superb, but it’s plain black sleeve omits all relevant discographical information!) This CD issue on the Italian Universe label from 2005 is probably a “grey-market” bootleg as well, but it sounds fine and is packaged in a deluxe mini-gatefold LP sleeve. As of this writing, these Universe editions are in print and readily available.

The album opens with a spirited performance of “Enlightenment,” a composition co-written with trumpeter Hobart Dotson which dates all the way back to 1958’s Jazz in Silhouette. But by 1969, Sun Ra had abandoned Dotson’s counter-melodies and added typically Saturnalian lyrics. Here, Ra sets up the bouncy vamp on organ for John Gilmore and June Tyson, who chant in a call and response fashion, imploring humanity to join the Arkestra on its cosmic space voyage:

The Sound of Joy is Enlightenment
Space, Fire, Truth is Enlightenment
Space Fire
Sometimes it's Music
Strange Mathematics
Rhythmic Equations
The Sound of Thought is Enlightenment
The Magic Light of Tomorrow
Backwards are those of Sadness
Forward and Onward Are those of Gladness
Enlightenment Is my Tomorrow
It has no planes of Sorrow
Hereby, my Invitation
I do invite you be of my Space World
This Song is Sound of Enlightenment
The Fiery Truth of Enlightenment
Vibrations come from the Space World
Is of the Cosmic Starry Dimension
Enlightenment is my Tomorrow
It has no planes of Sorrow
Hereby, our Invitation
We do invite you to be of our Space World.

This infectious little ditty elicits some enthusiastic applause and, not surprisingly, “Enlightenment” would become a fixture of the live repertoire in coming years. Then, after a quick piano introduction, Gilmore and Tyson sing “The Star Gazers” in a lovely unison melody:

This is the Theme of the Star Gazers
Star Gazers in the Sky
This is the Theme of the Star Gazers
Star Gazers in the Sky
This is the Song of Tomorrow’s World
Of Cosmic Paradise.
After that plaintive vocal statement, Sonny launches into a gorgeous ad lib piano solo while small percussion instruments tinkle and clatter and Alan Silva provides some complementary figures on bass. Gradually, Ra builds up the intensity with cascading waves of chords and then bringing it back down to a gentle, quiet ending — until a crashing chord signals the beginning of the notorious “Shadow World.” Right off, it is obvious that the band is a well-oiled machine: the insanely complex, hocketed melodies are performed flawlessly, setting the stage for Gilmore’s utterly hair-raising solo on tenor saxophone, complete with a squealing and wailing a cappella cadenza. Ra then takes over with a skittering, swirling organ solo until cueing the horns for a huge, pulsating space chord. The braying and howling horns eventually subside, leaving Ra to sketch out the dramatic chord sequence on organ to end. This is a truly stunning performance of one of Ra’s most significant compositions and must be heard to be believed!

The album closes with an epic, twenty-minute-long MiniMoog/organ solo entitled, “The Cosmic Explorer” wherein Ra conjures up all kinds of incredible sounds from his electronic instruments: from spacey noodling to woozy portamentos, and blasts of white noise to apocalyptic torrents of dissonant tone-clusters. Meanwhile, cymbals, gongs and percussion rumble ominously in the background while a few horns add spare punctuation. After about seventeen minutes, the full Arkestra enters with a few minutes of high-energy, New-Thing-styled free-jazz which comes to a satisfyingly resolute climax before quickly fading out. I only wish we could hear the music that followed…

Like its companion volume, Nuits de la Fondation Maeght Volume 1 is an essential item in the discography, notable for its exceptionally good sound quality and superlative performances. Certainly, those in attendance were suitably impressed: the Arkestra had barely arrived back in Philadelphia when a group of European promoters offered to bring them back for a full-fledged tour only two months later, in October of 1970. I will be examining the surviving recordings from this momentous tour over the next few weeks here on Sun Ra Sunday.

November 28, 2009

Playlist 11-28-09

* Geminiani: Cello Sonatas, Op.5 (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics CD)
* Vivaldi: Concerti e Sinfonie per Archi (VBO/Marcon) (Arkiv Produktion CD)
* Vivaldi: Concertos for Two Violins (VBO/Mullova/Carmignola) (Arkiv Produktion CD)
* Vivaldi: Cello Sonatas (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics 2CD)
* C.P.E. Bach: Symphonies 1-4, etc. (English Concert/Manze) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Vol.2 (Universe CD)
* Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Vol.1 (Universe CD)
* Herbie Hancock & Headhunters: Music Hall, Omaha, NE 11-17-75 (FM CDR)
* Weather Report: Shinjuku Kouseinenkin Hall, Tokyo 6-28-78 (FM 2CDR)
* John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension: Schloss Johannisberg, Cuvéehof 7-4-08 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus: Royal Festival Hall, London 1-30-92 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus: Paris 5-17-95 (FM CDR)
* William Parker & Hamid Drake: Volume 1: Piercing the Veil (AUM Fidelity CD)
* William Parker & Hamid Drake: Volume 2: Summer Snow (AUM Fidelity CD)
* Matthew Shipp: Harmony and Abyss (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Antipop Consortium: Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp (Thirsty ear CD)
* El-P: High Water Featuring the Blue Series Continuum (Thirsty Ear CD)
* DJ Spooky (w/Matthew Shipp, et al.): Optometry (Thirsty Ear CD)
* DJ Spooky (feat. Mad Professor & Lee “Scratch” Perry): Dubtometry (Thirsty Ear CD)
* DJ Spooky: Celestial Mechanix: The Blue Series MasterMix (Thirsty Ear 2CD)
* Quincy Jones: Sounds…and Stuff Like That (A&M CD)
* John Lennon: Anthology (d.1-2) (Capitol 4CD)
* King Crimson: Islands (DGM/Virgin CD)
* King Crimson: Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (DGM/Virgin CD)
* King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black (DGM/Virgin CD)
* Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Atco/Classic 2LP)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips: Vol.1, No.1: Fall ’79 (GD/Rhino 2+1CD)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips: Vol.3, No.1: Oakland 12-28-79 (GD/Rhino 2+1CD)
* Jerry Garcia Band: Let It Rock: Keystone, Berkeley November 17 & 18, 1975 (Rhino 2CD)
* Mickey Hart/Airto/Flora Purim: Däfos (RykoDisc Au20 CD)
* Japan: Oil on Canvas (Virgin – UK 2LP)
* David Sylvian (w/Robert Fripp): Gone to Earth (Virgin/Atlantic 2LP)
* Guided By Voices: Bee Thousand: The Director’s Cut (Scat 3LP)
* Guided By Voices: Suitcase 3 (d.1-3) (GBV, Inc. 4CD)
* Yo La Tengo: Crystal Ballroom, Portland 10-20-09 (SBD/AUD matrix 2CDR)
* The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin 5.1 (Warner Bros. DVD-A)
* Palace Music: Viva Last Blues (Drag City LP)
* Jim O’Rourke: Eureka (Drag City LP)
* Jim O’Rourke: The Visitor (Drag City LP)
* Stereolab: Dots and Loops (Drag City 2LP)
* Radiohead: In Rainbows (TBD CD)


Nothing like a long holiday weekend to provide lots of extra listening time! Hooray!


There was a time around the turn of the century when it appeared that a free-jazz/hip-hop crossover was ascendant, spearheaded by Matthew Shipp and the adventurous folks at Thirsty Ear. Sure, producer/bassist Bill Laswell had been mining this sort of territory for years, but his meticulously clinical constructions can sometimes sound bloodless and sterile. Shipp’s forays into electronica were more spontaneous and loose, harnessing hip-hop’s pumping drive to avant-jazz musicianship to exciting effect. Shipp has since backed away from this kind of “fusion” music, instead focusing on an almost-traditionalist solo and trio approach on his latest records. Perhaps “fusion” really is just a dead end; nevertheless, I like it.


Speaking of musical dead ends, I will also unapologetically admit to a predilection for progressive rock from the Nineteen-Seventies. I especially love Peter Gabriel’s final album with Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974), which sounds utterly stupendous on my 200g Classic pressing. This sprawling double-album epitomizes all that is magnificent and horrible about the prog-rock genre: the fantastical, incomprehensible lyrics; the pretentiously tricky and overly-complicated music; the overbearing melodrama and theatricality…it’s all there to be savored and abhorred. Great fun. And then there’s King Crimson, a band whose music can be both sublimely beautiful and menacingly ugly and disturbing. Each of their albums is a carefully-wrought opus that rewards repeated listening. But when Bill Bruford and John Wetton joined the band for 1973’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, they constituted a muscular yet flexible rhythm section that rooted Robert Fripp’s brainy constructions in some earthy oomph. This is powerfully strong stuff that still gives me great listening pleasure even after all these years. 40th Anniversary CD/DVD-A reissues of King Crimson’s catalog are currently ongoing — gosh, has it been a decade already? My 30th Anniversary CDs sound darn good to me and I love the mini-gatefold-LP packaging. Do I have to buy these albums again?! Of course, I am a sucker for high-res digital…maybe Santa Clause will drop them down the chimney on December 25th.


Stereolab’s Dots and Loops (1997) is one of my favorite albums of all time. Listening to this pure pop masterpiece, I feel like I am touring the Alps in a small Italian convertible sports car, wind in my hair, not a care in the world. Not that I’ve ever visited the Alps, or driven a small Italian convertible sports car. But this album makes me imagine how pleasant such an experience might be. While I enjoyed their subsequent albums, they did not move me in the same way that Dots and Loops still does. I stopped paying attention after 2001’s Sound Dust and was shocked to learn of the tragic death of Mary Hansen in 2002. The band continues to soldier on, but I haven’t heard any of the music. Doesn’t matter — they made one perfect album and that’s more than enough for anyone.

November 27, 2009

More Free Music for Free at Internet Archive

I’ve uploaded quite a bit of music to the Internet Archive over the past couple of days, documenting some of the freely improvised piano/drums duets I recorded with the extraordinary Sam Byrd, right here at Heeltop Home Studio over the past couple of years. It is nothing short of miraculous that I have been able to make music with my old band-mate at least once – and sometimes twice – per year ever since we moved to Kingston Springs. I have my doubts about my piano playing, but Sam sounds great, even on a rudimentary kit.

Music wants to be free, so here it is.

This piece, recorded in December 2007, now somewhat arbitrarily titled, “Ones and Zeroes,” is obviously a nod to the digital technology that makes all this music possible, but I was thinking about Stravinsky’s riots at the ballet while we were playing: Does music still have the power to move people to violence? Whatever…enjoy!

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! It's all about food -- and being thankful for life's bounties. What's not to love? I hope everyone has a great day!

November 25, 2009

A Quiet Place

Inspired by my collaborator and drummer extraordinaire, Sam Byrd, I have uploaded some of the music we recorded in July to the Internet Archive. Here is a streaming MP3. Enjoy!

November 22, 2009


I built the first fire of the season tonight. It was a cloudy day here in Middle Tennessee with a nip in the air that was hard to ignore. But I was reminded that one of my favorite things about winter is a fire in the fireplace. In all the years I lived in frigid, rainy Boston, I never had a working fireplace and it was one of things that I simply had to have when we bought our house here in Kingston Springs.

Winter is hard – even in Tennessee. But I can’t imagine living someplace where there are no seasons. Building a fire in the fireplace allows me, a middle-aged softy, to re-connect with the most primal of civilizing forces. To have nature’s most destructive element right in one’s living room is a truly awesome feeling. The fire not only takes the chill out of the air and creates a cozy atmosphere; it allows us to experience our ancient ancestors’ most profound source of life and sustenance. Winter is hard, but we are human – we can build a fire.

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght vol.2 (Universe UV081 CD)

While Sun Ra was struggling to find an audience stateside, Willis Conover had enlisted Sonny (amongst others) into Uncle Sam’s Cold War cultural army, broadcasting the Arkestra’s records regularly on Voice of America and, by 1970, Europe had become a more welcoming environment for American jazz musicians than their native country. Conover and his wife had been instrumental in securing Sonny’s Carnegie Hall debut in 1968 and had been urging him to travel to Europe ever since. When they offered to arrange for the Arkestra to appear at the prestigious Fondation Maeght in the south of France for three concerts in August 1970, Ra eagerly accepted.

The only problem was: how does Sun Ra, a being from the planet Saturn, go about obtaining a passport? Szwed describes the impossible scene:

When they filled out the forms at the passport office in New York City, the clerk at the desk said to Sun Ra, “Sir, you’re going to have to give us better information that this. We need your parents’ names, your birth date…” [Dancer] Verta Mae Grosvenor recalled that Sun Ra said, “‘That *is* the correct information.’ After a few minutes, the clerk went back to speak with her supervisor. The supervisor was no-nonsense, but after talking to Sun Ra she said, ‘Sir, why don’t you come back in a few hours.’ When we came back there was another person there and he knew about it, and he said, ‘We’ll just give you the passport.’ It just got so out that they just gave it to him!”

That passport gained talismanic force over the years, and musicians shook their heads when they saw it. Talvin Singh, an English tabla player, said: “His philosophy was that either you be part of the society or you don’t. And he wasn’t part of it. He created his own. I mean, I actually saw his passport and there was some weird shit on it. It had some different stuff.” (p.278)

Passport in hand, Ra and a nineteen-member Arkestra traveled to St. Paul de Vence and performed three concerts on August 3, 4, and 5, 1970. The Fondation Maeght is one of the finest small museums in the world and, with its focus on blue-chip modernism, Ra’s appearance in such a venue indicated a certain acceptance into the privileged domain of the European avant garde. The concerts were professionally recorded for broadcast by the state-sponsored radio station and portions were later released on LP as Nuits de la Fondation Maeght Volumes 1 and 2 by the French Shandar label in 1971. These records have been widely bootlegged ever since and my CDs on the Italian Universe label are probably “gray market” bootlegs as well, but they sound fine and are sumptuously packaged in heavyweight, gatefold mini-LP sleeves. As of this writing, they remain in print and are well worth seeking out.

Campbell (p.162) insists that Volume 2 comes from the August 3rd concert (Volume 1 is from August 5th) and having no reason to disagree, we will begin with Volume 2. Campbell also lists a number of tracks contained on the original radio broadcast and an audience tape, but I have not heard this material. Again, Szwed provides a vivid description of Sun Ra’s outrageous presentation and the decidedly mixed reaction it generated:

The audience had little or no knowledge of Sun Ra’s music, since his records
weren’t widely distributed in France, and when they arrived they saw the Arkestra spread out before them like elaborate décor: musicians in red tunics, seated in a forest of instruments on stage, dancers in red dresses. On a screen behind them was projected a sky full of stars, then planets, children in Harlem, Indians on hunting trips, and newsreel footage of protests; a ball of “magic fire” rose slowly up to the ceiling; saxophonists began to battle like Samurai, then came together like brothers; and in the still center of it all, Sun Ra sat behind the Moog, creating the sounds of gales, storms, and waves crashing. From the very first note, an agitated woman stood up and cried out, “What is
this? Afterwards, she came up and insisted on seeing the written music. Europeans seemed to want to know whether there was music behind what they were hearing, as if it would assure them that this was rational activity, and Sonny was always happy to show them the scores. A man once blurted out that his “five-year-old daughter could play that!” Sun Ra readily agreed: “She could play it, but could she write it?” (p.279)

The album opens with “Friendly Galaxy No.2,” a fascinating piece only tangentially related to the first “Friendly Galaxy,” which originally appeared on Secrets of the Sun in 1965. After a burbling organ introduction, the composition moves to a choir of flutes improvising over Ra’s languid piano, Alan Silva’s whining cello, and with a simple but rhythmically insistent trumpet motif recurring throughout. Meanwhile, the rest of the band establishes an exotic space-groove on bass, drums, tympani, and hand percussion. The effect is otherworldly and quite mesmerizing. In an interview with Jazz magazine in November 1970, Sun Ra described how he tailored this piece to the unique qualities of the venue:

One of the things which most impressed listeners at the Fondation Maeght is the passage for six flutes ad lib, six flutes playing in harmony. I could say improvising in harmony. I’m inspired by it to do something else which would be totally different. I believe it’s a musical idea which would be totally different. I believe it’s a new way of using flutes. It’s at once both very melodic and harmonious and at the same time so distant, as if the music was heard in the distance through a sort of mist. It’s so “out of this world.”

Curious thing, the flutes had never played this passage with the piano, but because of the peculiar acoustics in the room I knew that it would be absolutely necessary that I play at the same time because the flutes would be bothered by an echo that the audience fortunately wouldn’t hear at all. So above this the trumpets entered in, played a sort of ad lib riff because this light echo didn’t allow them to understand the rhythm.
(quoted in Szwed pp.279-280)

“Friendly Galaxy No.2” would be performed several times over the next couple of years only to disappear from the repertoire. Too bad as it is truly a unique work, with the massed flutes and brass technique demonstrating Ra’s audacious genius at orchestration. “Spontaneous Simplicity” follows (out of sequence, according to Campbell) and although this version doesn’t devolve into the kind of proto-No Wave skronk heard on the Electric Circus tape from 1968, this a fine performance with the massive ensemble sections sounding particularly powerful and precise. After the opening statement, Sun Ra leads the way with a buzzing Rocksichord solo as the rest of the Arkestra picks up percussion instruments to buoy the hypnotic, one-note bassline. The music grooves along for a delirious eleven minutes, ending to some genuinely enthusiastic applause.

“The World of Lightning” picks up in the middle of some crashing gongs and cymbals, the audience clapping in slow rhythm until Ra takes over with one of his patented mad-scientist organ solos. Afterwards, Marshall Allen engages Alan Silva in a duel between alto saxophone and cello, with other horns joining in the fray at its screaming climax, the entire Arkestra wailing away with utter abandon until Sonny cues a cataclysmic ending that feels like the cosmos collapsing in on itself. The audience reacts with stunned silence which perfectly sets the stage for “Black Myth,” a solemn bit of musical theater featuring June Tyson’s dramatic and evocative vocals. Tyson intones two Sun Ra poems (“The Shadows Took Shape” and “The Strange World”) over spacey noises, fleeting flutes, and ominous percussion. Ra then launches into a typically apocalyptic organ/synthesizer blast that eventually crossfades to some overloud applause. The album ends with a fragmentary piece entitled, “Key,” which starts off with some intertwined oboe (possibly James Jacson) and cello but is soon interrupted with an explosion of cacophonous horns and bashing drums that quickly subsides, only to fade out with some gentle percussion taps. Interesting.

What a great album! It is so nice to hear the Arkestra recorded in such high fidelity and this is an especially riveting live performance. The band is well-rehearsed and everyone is more than happy to be feted by French cultural elites. Nuits de la Fondation Maeght Vol.1, which documents the August 5th concert, might be even better. We’ll take a listen next week.

November 21, 2009

Playlist 11-21-09

* Dowland: Complete Works for Lute, Vol.1 (O’Dette) (Harmonia Mundi CD)
* Vivaldi: Concertos for the Emperor (English Concert/Manze) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Vivaldi: Late Concertos RV386, etc. (Carmignola/VBO/Marcon) (Sony CD)
* Vivaldi: Cello Sonatas (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics 2CD)
* Telemann: Flute Concertos (Arte dei Suonatori): Cieszn 6-15-08 (FM CDR)
* J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin (Holloway) (ECM 2CD)
* Sun Ra: Secrets of the Sun (Atavistic CD)
* Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Vol.2 (Universe CD)
* Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght, Vol.1 (Universe CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Coventry) 1985 (Leo 2CD)
* Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: This Brings Us To, Vol.1 (Pi CD)
* Rudresh Mahanthappa featuring Kadri Gopalnath & the Dakshina Ensemble: Kinsmen (Pi CD)
* Bill Laswell: Silent Recoil: Dub System One (Low CD)
* The Beatles: The Beatles (a/k/a The White Album) (mono) (d.2) (EMI/Apple 2CD)
* Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Vol.4: Live 1966 (d.2) (Columbia 2CD)
* Bob Dylan: Together Through Life (Columbia CD)
* Dr. John: Gumbo/In the Right Place (MFSL CD)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips: Vol.3, No.1: Oakland 12-28-79 (GD/Rhino 2+1CD)
* Grateful Dead: Fieldhouse, University of Iowa, Iowa City 8-10-82 (SBD 3CDR)
* Jerry Garcia Band: Let It Rock: Keystone, Berkeley November 17 & 18, 1975 (Rhino 2CD)
* Big Star: #1 Record (Ardent/Classic LP)
* Big Star: Radio City (Ardent/Classic LP)
* Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues (Sire/Warner Bros. DVD-A)
* Television: Marquee Moon (Rhino CD)
* Television: Adventure (Rhino CD)
* Guided By Voices: Under the Bushes Under the Stars (Matador LP+EP)
* The Takeovers: Turn to Red (Fading Captain Series LP)
* Yo La Tengo: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (Matador CD)
* Radiohead: Kid A (Capitol CD)
* Gastr del Sol: Upgrade and Afterlife (Drag City EP+LP)
* Gastr del Sol: Camoufleur (Drag City LP)


Lots of new stuff this week! (It was, after all, my birthday on Sunday!) The Vivaldi cello sonatas as played by Jaap ter Linden are certainly a lovely, gentle way to start the day. This is about as languid and serene as Vivaldi gets –very, very mellow (thanks Steve & Katie!). At the other extreme, the Venice Baroque Orchestra plays Vivaldi’s music with hair-raising intensity – particularly when violinist Giuliano Carmignola is sawing away on the fiddle. These late concertos (Vivaldi wrote over 240!) had never been previously recorded and they are all first-rate. Great fun! My sister also provided Henry Threadgill’s new disc, which is, of course, excellent, if much too short! (Thanks Molly & Geoff!) My brother-in-law sent me the Rudresh Mahanthappa disc, which I had heard a lot about but had never heard. It’s a synthesis of free-bop and classical Indian scales and talas that, on paper, shouldn’t work, yet somehow it does. When the whole band really gets going in high-stakes group improvisation, the room starts to levitate. Wild! (Thanks Dave & Michiko!)

On Tuesday, I made a quick trip to Grimey’s on my lunch hour, just to get out of the office for a few minutes and dig the friendly, music-loving vibes. I poked around a bit and was about to leave empty-handed when I noticed they had the first two Big Star LPs recently reissued on the renowned audiophile label, Classic Records. I figured, what the heck, it’s my birthday! Wow, these thick slabs of translucent “Clarity Vinyl” sound freaking fantastic — and just about exactly perfect at maximum volume! Heavenly!

So there’s all that but then the Grateful Dead: Road Trips Volume 3, Number 1 also arrived in the mailbox on Monday. Now, I’ve been less than totally enthused about the Road Trips series, but they hit a home run with this one: the complete concert at the (relatively) intimate Oakland Auditorium Arena on 12-28-79. This makes a long-overdue companion to Dick’s Picks Vol. 5 (released way back in 1996!) which contains the complete 12-26 concert; but I think this is a better show all around. (And if you order now, you get a “bonus disc” containing choice selections from 12-30). I have to admit to being quite fond of the early Brent Mydland years, if only because that is when I personally “got on the bus” and hearing this version of the band brings back some fond memories. But Brent’s hot-rodded Rhodes electric piano sounds dated and thin to some (personally, I like it). Nevertheless, his Hammond B-3 organ (and occasional Prophet-5 synthesizer) added some welcome textures to the music. Furthermore, there can be no denying that Brent’s arrival had an invigorating effect on the band –– particularly Garcia — but this period (c.1979-1986) is woefully underrepresented in the official discography. For that reason alone, this is a welcome release indeed. Note that this is not a “soundboard” tape, but a “Betty Board”, a separate two-track mix made by Betty Cantor-Jackson to a Nagra reel-to-reel and it sounds fabulous. And, if you’re wondering, it sounds much, much better than the circulating version – and that’s saying something. Only available only at

Also in the mailbox was another tasty vault release of an early incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band which briefly featured the mercurial Nicky Hopkins on piano and Elvis’s own Ron Tutt on drums. Hopkins’s precocious virtuosity on the piano sometimes threatens to overwhelm the proceedings – he even takes to addressing the crowd and introducing the band as if he is the leader! But Garcia takes it all in stride and it’s obvious everyone is having a real good time. Recorded to 16-track by the indomitable Betty and mixed by current GD sound guru, Jeffrey Norman, these CDs sounds amazingly realistic and three-dimensional. This is a nice choice that fills an important historical gap in Garcia solo discography. It's worth it just to hear Nicky Hopkins in Deadworld. Fun stuff!


Speaking of the Grateful Dead, were Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd the Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir of the nascent NYC Punk/New Wave scene? Yes, they were. Just listen to the sprawling, ten-minute title track brimming with ecstatic dual-guitar heroics on their 1977 debut album, Marquee Moon. Case closed.

November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me (& Liz)!

Today is my birthday.
Today is also Lizzy’s birthday – isn’t that neat?
So, we’re celebrating!

I’ll be back with more Sun Ra Sunday next week.

November 14, 2009

Playlist 11-14-09

* Hesperion XXI (Savall): Isabel I: Reina de Castilla (1451-1504) (Alia Vox SACD)
* Schmelzer: Unarum Fidium (Holloway/Assenbaum/Mortensen) (ECM CD)
* Biber: Violin Sonatas (Romanesca/Manze) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Rebel: Violin Sonatas (Manze/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi)
* John Coltrane: The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions (Impulse! 2CD)
* Sun Ra: The Red Garter, New York City July 1970 (AUD CDR)
* Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght Vol.2 (Universe CD)
* Sun Ra: Nuits de la Fondation Maeght Vol.1 (Universe CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Composition No.165 (for 18 instruments) (New Albion CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quintet (London) 2004 (Leo CD)
* Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: Teatro Communale, Cormòns, Gorizia 10-23-08 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: Folkets Hus, Umeå 10-25-08 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: Stadtgarten, Köln 11-4-08 (FM CDR)
* John Abercrombie & Miroslav Vitous: Willisau 8-30-03 (FM CDR)
* Matthew Shipp’s Nu Bop: Auditorium Parca della Musica, Roma 4-5-04 (FM CDR)
* King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King (DGM/Virgin CD)
* King Crimson: In the Wake of Poseidon (DGM/Virgin CD)
* King Crimson: Lizard (DGM/Virgin CD)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, Hampton, VA 4-13-84 (AUD 3CD)
* Jerry Garcia Band: Coliseum, Hampton, VA 11-9-91 (Pure Jerry 2CD)
* Chris Bell: I Am the Cosmos (Deluxe Edition) (Rhino Handmade 2CD)
* Television: Live at the Old Waldorf, San Francisco 6-29-78 (Rhino Handmade CD)
* Patti Smith: Horses (Arista CD)
* Deadline: Dissident (Day Eight CD)
* Tetragramaton: Submerge (Ion CD)
* Aphex Twin: Richard D. James Album (Warp/Sire CD)
* Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey CD)
* Robert Pollard: Elephant Jokes (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Boston Spaceships: Zero to 99 (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (Matador CD)


Henry Threadgill (b. 1944) is one of my very favorite musicians/composers. His music is a unique hybrid of avant-jazz-funk and serious, modern-classical-derived composition technique and his wonderful band, Zooid (with its luscious instrumentation of guitar, tuba/trombone, bass, drums (and sometimes cello) along with Threadgill himself on alto saxophone and flute), is the perfect vehicle for Threadgill’s genius. They have a new album out on Pi, This Brings Us To, Vol.1, but I don’t have it yet. This is Threadgill’s first record in many years, so let’s hope Vol.2 is to be forthcoming. In other exciting news, the boutique reissue label, Mosaic, is planning to release The Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill & Air in early 2010, a fitting companion to last year’s The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton, bringing together a phenomenal body of important work that was inexplicably commissioned by major labels but which was promptly deleted and has remained tragically out of print ever since. Needless to say, this is another must-have box set. Also, here is a recent interview with Threadgill wherein he talks at length about his music and aesthetic philosophy. What a fascinating guy! Threadgill is currently touring Europe with Zooid, so I’m hoping some more FM broadcasts turn up in the near future. Great, great music!


When it comes to the Grateful Dead, I generally prefer soundboard tapes to audience recordings if only for their greater immediacy and clarity. But I realize that there is nothing like a well-recorded audience tape; sadly, such things are pretty darn rare. On April 13, 1984, Rob Eaton (who, not surprisingly, went on to a successful career in sound engineering) made an astonishingly hi-fidelity recording at the cavernous Hampton Coliseum utilizing super-high-quality Neumann U-47 microphones and a humble but road-worthy Sony D-5 cassette deck. The recording has a smooth yet vividly detailed “you are there” quality that captures an essential element that a soundboard tape excludes: the sound of the room — and the Grateful Dead were one of the few bands that could produce high-quality sound in a hockey rink. Thanks to the Dead’s ultra-enlightened stance on audience taping, you can freely and legally download lossless FLAC files of this truly spectacular recording at Go for it!

November 8, 2009

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra: The Red Garter, New York City circa. July, 1970 (AUD CDR)

According to photographer Lee Santa, Sun Ra’s Arkestra played a three-night engagement at The Red Garter (now known as The Bottom Line) in Greenwich Village in early July, 1970. The nightclub’s “obtrusive Gay ‘90s décor” can be seen in Santa’s photograph (above) which appeared on the original cover of The Solar Myth Approach, Vol.1. Santa recalled that “the first night featured six hours of continuous music; the second and third nights slacked off to a mere five hours, without a break” (see Campbell & Trent, p.161-162). It must have been something to behold.

Fortunately, an intrepid fan surreptitiously recorded a seventy-five minute segment one night utilizing a very primitive recording device and, while the sound quality is typically horrid, the music itself is terrific. How bad does it sound? Well, the volume levels fluctuate wildly while consistently retaining a significant amount of distortion; there’s some serious wow and flutter issues; and the monophonic, single-microphone recording is boomy, muddy, and generally indistinct. It doesn’t sound quite as bad as the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival recording, but it also doesn’t sound nearly as good as the 1968 Electric Circus tape. Let’s face it: your cell phone could make a far better-sounding recording. Nevertheless, the large-ish ensemble sounds particularly well-rehearsed (perhaps in preparation for their upcoming trip to France) and the free-wheeling performance goes to some very interesting places. For the hardcore Ra fanatic, this is well worth hearing as a rare historical document but most people will be understandably repulsed.

Caveats aside, the performance captured on this amateur recording is really quite stunning, beginning with a long unidentified title that alternates between a spacey, mellow groove and full-blast assaults of New Thing-styled energy music. Solos by John Gilmore on tenor sax and Ra on mad-scientist organ keep things interesting, ending with Danny Davis’s woody alto clarinet interweaving with the Arkestra’s antiphonal calls and responses. “Love in Outer Space” follows: a loping bassline holds down the jaunty groove while the entire Akestra gleefully bangs on myriad percussion instruments, with Ra stating the simple, joyful melody and soloing on electric organ. After a brief pause, Ra segues into a quiet, spooky organ improvisation accompanied by Alan Silva’s distinctive cello. After about five minutes, the horns enter with a curiously old fashioned, rubato ballad composition (title unknown) that eventually settles into a gentle swing. Kwame Hadi takes an adventurous turn on trumpet, with Ra rumbling away on organ. Pat Patrick follows with a typically ferocious bari-sax solo while the rhythm heats up and shifting horn sections provide riffing punctuation. After settling back down, the horns return with the old-timey ballad to end. Interesting.

What follows is one of the strangest bits of musical-theater in all of Ra’s discography. John Gilmore recalled the title as “Ladies and Gentlemules” (Id. p.162) and, while the recording is incomplete, the piece appears to be structured like a sanctified church service, with Ra fervently imploring the “gentlemules” to heed his message. The Arkestra plays some bluesy swing and ecstatically chants, but much of the preaching and carrying on is difficult to hear. However, the loud, unison refrain of “another jackass is going to take your place” is clear enough to get the point across. After about six minutes of holy-rolling chaos, the tape abruptly cuts off. Up next is “Somewhere Else,” a then-recent composition which would appear on the studio recording, My Brother the Wind Vol. II, in 1971. Not much happens beyond several repetitions of the lurching, block-chord melody over a gospel-ish vamp, but the effect is hypnotizing. After a brief organ and synthesizer solo (with some barely audible spoken incantations), Ra launches into the nineteen-twenties-era chestnut, “Sometimes I’m Happy.” The Arkestra sounds a little tentative in the ensembles, but Gilmore’s sure-footed tenor solo demonstrates his unique synthesis of pre-war swing, hard bop grit, and avant-garde extended techniques.

The tape concludes with a spectacular, thirteen-minute rendition of another My Brother the Wind Vol. II composition, “Pleasant Twilight,” According to Campbell and Trent, there are no other known live performances of this piece, which is unsurprising given its subtle complexity. Ra begins with a rhapsodic, rubato introduction on organ before the Arkestra enters with the brightly swinging composition. The tempo then slows down by half and, while the ensemble gently rocks back and forth between two lushly sustained chords, Gilmore peals off a starkly contrasting, barn-burner of a solo on tenor sax. Holy smokes! The Arkestra plays their parts with incredible restraint while Gilmore wails away with a terrifying fury. After a honking, emphatic conclusion, Gilmore leads the Arkestra through a half-time run through of the head before returning the original tempo for a high-spirited trumpet solo from Akh Tal Ebah. The Arkestra adds complementary horn riffs and, as the intensity builds, the tempo speeds up again for an enervated reprise and a big finish. Whew! The much abbreviated studio recording, while sparklingly polished, ultimately sounds downright staid compared to this expansive and inspired live performance. It’s a shame this tune fell out of the repertoire.

Given the atrocious sound quality, I cannot recommend that anyone but the most fanatical seek this recording out. But given the exceptionally high quality of the performance and the sheer rarity of tracks like “Pleasant Twilight,” it is nevertheless worth hearing. As the seventies wore on, live recordings would become more and more plentiful and one might pick and choose without missing too much. But given the paucity of material from this particular time period, this one is worth having for that reason alone.

November 7, 2009

Playlist 11-7-09

* Hesperion XXI (Savall): La Folia 1490-1701 (Alia Vox SACD)
* Hesperion XXI (Savall): Altre Follie 1500-1750 (Alia Vox SACD)
* Biber: The Rosary Sonatas (Manze/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Corelli: 12 Concerti Grossi, Op.6 (English Concert/Pinnock) (Archiv Produktion 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concertos (AAM/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2SACD)
* J.S. Bach: Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Pandolfo/Alessandrini) (Harmonia Mundi CD)
* Nono: La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura (Kremer) (Deutsche Grammophon CD)
* Nono (London Sinfonietta, et al.): Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 4-27-08 (FM 2CDR)
* Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Newport Jazz Festival 7-3-69 (AUD CDR)
* Sun Ra & His Arkestra: The Red Garter, New York City July, 1970 (AUD CDR)
* Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (ECM – W. Germany 2LP)
* Wayne Shorter Quintet: Jazzhus Montmartre, Copenhagen 7-10-90 (FM 2CDR)
* John Abercrombie/Miroslav Vitous: Sala del Congressi, Muralto 4-27-06 (FM CDR)
* Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Trio: hr-Sendsaal, Frankfurt 10-30-09 (FM CDR)
* Tortoise: Ampere, München 8-20-09 (FM CDR)
* The Beatles: Beatles for Sale (mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Rubber Soul (mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* Nick Drake: Fruit Tree (Island 3CD+DVD)
* Pink Floyd: The Wall (Columbia (wlp) 2LP)
* Big Star: Keep An Eye on the Sky (d.1-2) (Rhino 4CD)
* Grateful Dead: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, Long Island 11-1-79 (SBD 3CDR)
* Emmylou Harris & Spyboy: The Bottom Line, New York City 12-6-98 (FM CDR)
* Genesis: The Empire Pool, Wembley, London 4-15-75 (Pre-FM CDR/DVDR-A)
* Cocteau Twins: Echoes in a Shallow Bay (Capitol CDEP)
* Cocteau Twins: Tiny Dynamine (Capitol CDEP)
* Cocteau Twins: Sunburst and Snowblind (Capitol CDEP)
* My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (Plain LP)
* Aphex Twin: Drukqs (Warp/Sire 2CD)
* Sonic Youth/Jim O’Rourke: Invito al Ĉielo (SYR LP)
* Guided By Voices: Daredevil Stamp Collector (Do the Collapse B-Sides) (FCS LP)
* Guided By Voices: Briefcase (Suitcase Abridged: Drinks and Deliveries) (FCS LP)
* Guided By Voices: Briefcase 2 (Suitcase 2 Abridged: The Return of Milk O’Waif) (FCS LP)
* Guided By Voices: Briefcase 3: Cuddling Bozo’s Octopus (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Flaming Lips: Embryonic (Warner Bros. DVD-A)


I have profoundly mixed feelings about Keith Jarrett’s music — and his sometimes abrasive personality doesn’t make me feel any better about it. Even so, there can be no denying his genius: when he is good, he is very, very good. But after making the move from the electric Miles Davis band to the American/European Quartets Jarrett very self-consciously re-asserted the piano as his primary instrument and vehemently disavowed his (brilliant) work with Miles while generally disparaging electric instruments (and their players) in the press. Frankly, his vehemence always struck me as myopic, mean-spirited and counterproductive. When Jarrett launched a solo-piano career in the nineteen seventies, this was universally seen an intensely provocative move. “Jazz” is, for the most part, a “group” activity, if only because of the usefulness of a rhythm section. Sure, solo “jazz” piano had always been around, epitomized by the “cocktail piano” stereotype, but what Jarrett was proffering was something totally different: long, rhapsodic, “free” improvisations played on the finest concert grand pianos on the world’s most prestigious stages, essentially placing his work on the same pedestal as the classical music recital. At the height of “jazz fusion’s” commercial appeal, this was quite a bold claim for even the most ambitious “jazz” musician! Given this context, The Köln Concert (1975) was surprisingly successful in every respect. From proto-New Age contemplation to raucous, gospel-infused elation, Jarrett conjures up a truly sublime hour of music, demonstrating breathtaking control of his musical resources, from the thoughtful, seemingly through-composed construction to the detailed, multipart voice leading featuring astonishing ten-fingered independence and virtuosic pedal effects. When side three concludes with five-plus minutes of unedited applause, it feels simultaneously vain and indubitably well-deserved. (Side four’s encores are just icing on the cake.) The albums that followed in its wake were sometimes overly self-indulgent and boring, but this performance is nearly perfect. It is no wonder this album has never been out of print and remains Jarrett’s best-selling record. My original West German vinyl pressing is super-smooth, richly detailed and delicious, as only a well-made, all-analog LP can be. But the CD would be nice to have in order to retain the music’s fluid continuity — perhaps I should pick it up. And perhaps I should pull out my copy of the 10-LP Sun Bear Concerts again; maybe it is not as self indulgent and boring as I remember! Jarrett has apparently returned to this kind of solo-piano music after a long stint with his “standards” trio (with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette) and a quirky, less-than-totally convincing stab at the classical repertoire. I’m sure his new discs are worth hearing – at least once. I've placed them on my ever-expanding want list.


Grateful Dead 11-1-79: best “Scarlet>Fire” EVAH!! By the way, this mind-blowing sequence is “officially” available (albeit with the channels inexplicably reversed) on Dick’s Picks Thirteen (GDCD 4033) as a “hidden” bonus track on disc two: just let the CD keep playing after “Saint of Circumstance.” It starts after a minute or so of silence. Pure bliss.


I’ve been saying this for years and yet another academic study proves my point: Illegal Downloaders Spend the Most on Music. According to this report from the UK, such people spend a whopping 75% more on music than people who do not participate in such alleged “illegal” downloading. It seems to me the music industry should embrace their best customers, rather than prosecuting them. HELLO?!?

November 1, 2009

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, RI 7-3-69 (AUD CDR)

The Arkestra’s transformation from obscure, local oddballs into the restlessly world-touring juggernaut it eventually became was a long time coming. From the mid-fifties until 1961, Sun Ra was known (if at all) only in around Chicago and a doomed excursion to Montreal left the Arkestra stranded in New York City, impoverished and almost virtually unknown. Yet Sonny persevered with the small group of musicians that remained, rehearsing, recording, and picking up gigs here and there around the city, barely eking out a precarious existence. It really wasn’t until ESP-Disk’ released Heliocentric Worlds Vol.1 in 1965 that Ra’s reputation slowly began to spread beyond the confines of New York (and Chicago) and allowed for larger ensembles and the growth of his homegrown Saturn record label, which would proceed to document a lot of previously unheard music. Heliocentric Worlds Vol.2 appeared in 1966, followed by a brief tour of New York State colleges (which yielded Nothing Is, released in 1969). Significantly, the Arkestra began a long-term Monday night residency at Slug’s Saloon in 1966 and the regular paying work attracted fresh young musicians to Sun Ra’s interplanetary big-band concept. With an enlarged band of more or less dedicated musicians with which to work, Ra began to develop his unique stage show, which he dubbed, “The Cosmo Drama” or “Myth-Ritual.”

Ra believed music could change the people of Earth and that myth was “something greater than truth” (quoted in Szwed, p.256). The truth is something too horrible to contemplate; but through myths about the future told with music, Ra hoped to demonstrate that the impossible could become possible. Szwed sums up Ra’s musico-philosophy thusly: “The future that people talk about is no good; we need to do the impossible, for everything possible has been tried and failed. Truth (the possible) equals death; myth (the impossible) equals immortality…Music could be used to coordinate minds. It could touch the unknown part of the person, awaken the part of them that we’re not able to talk to, the spirit” (Id.) The Cosmo Drama would often begin with the “thunder drum” alone with the staggered entry of the ensemble, dancing and banging on percussion instruments, leading into a group improvisation before Ra himself would make his dramatic appearance. Various original compositions, conducted improvisations, big-band rave-ups, solos and duos, space chants and oracular proclamations would proceed across sometimes vast expanses of time, ending with an extended, dancing exit, everyone joyfully singing “We Travel the Spaceways.” While the overall structure of the Cosmo Drama would remain relatively fixed, the sequence of events was finely tailored to the venue and audience vibe: according to Danny Thompson, the Arkestra had “as many as fifteen different arrangements of the same piece – such as “El is the Sound of Joy” – and any one might be used. It was adjusted to the time, the city, to what people need to hear” (quoted in Szwed, p.259). The astounding, wide-ranging music, the musician’s outrageous theatricality and fanciful costumes, combined with colorful stage lights, films, and slideshows could make for an over-stimulated, multisensory “happening” that suited the times.

By 1968, the United States found itself suffering from violent convulsions as the civil rights and anti-war movements gathered momentum and self-styled intellectuals, college students, Black Nationalists, hippies, and Yippies alike were all drawn to Ra’s spaced-out mysticism, the Arkestra’s high-spirited musicianship, and the accompanying quasi-psychedelic spectacle, although the mainstream “jazz” community remained mystified and dismissive. Sun Ra made his Carnegie Hall debut in April and The New Yorker dismissed it out of hand: “It wasn’t a good movie, and it wasn’t a good concert, and it wasn’t good Dadism. It wasn’t even adept put-on” (quoted in Szwed, p.254). Despite such withering condescension, Sonny was finding his audience. In June, the activist/agitator John Sinclair brought the Arkestra to Detroit to open for the radical, proto-punk rock band, MC5, at Wayne State University. The MC5 so revered Sun Ra, they co-credited “Starship” with him on their debut album, Kick Out the Jams (Elektra). In August, the Arkestra was invited to Washington, D.C. to perform in the atrium of the Corcoran Gallery where The Washington Post ambivalently described Sun Ra as “a kind of black John Cage” but not "pitiful and dull" (quoted in Szwed, p.255).

Singer/dancer June Tyson had joined the Arkestra by the fall of 1968 and in December, the Arkestra made its first trip to California, playing concerts at the College of Marin, San Jose State College, the Oakland Auditorium Theatre, and the San Francisco Art Institute. They made a second, more successful, journey to west coast in April, 1969 where they appeared at the University of Santa Clara, two nights at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, U.C. Davis, and the suspiciously named Maryjane Coffeehouse in Sacramento. However, on their way back east the Arkestra’s van overturned on Route 80 between Fernely and Lovelock, Nevada. Thankfully no one was injured, but most of the fragile Strange Strings instruments were completely destroyed. Sinclair again hosted the Arkestra for the Detroit Rock and Roll Revival at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in May, where they shared a bill with MC-5, The Stooges, Ted Nugent, The Amboy Dukes, and Chuck Berry.

In a measure of the Arkestra’s new-found prestige, they were invited to appear before four thousand people at the famed Newport Jazz Festival on July 3, 1969. However, the Arkestra’s interplanetary extravaganza must have seemed comically out of place amidst the staid conventionality of Phil Woods and Kenny Burrell, with whom they shared the bill. It also didn’t help that it rained all day at the outdoor festival and the audience’s reaction to Ra’s performance was lukewarm at best. However, a thirty-six minute audience tape survives and shows the Arkestra in full flight, making no concessions whatsoever to the elitist, patrician atmosphere. To be sure, the sound quality is pretty dreadful, but an approximation of the music can be discerned amidst the murk.

The tape opens in the middle of one of those roiling dark funk jams with piercing shards of dissonant organ and braying horns. Suddenly, the ensemble plays a sweet-sounding sectional right out of the nineteen-forties — until the ending fermatas swell into universe-shattering space chords. This is a very interesting composition (whose title is presently unknown); perhaps it is a precursor to the famous “Discipline” series of compositions Ra would begin in the nineteen-seventies (see Campbell & Trent, p.151). Ra then wrestles the band into a blistering rendition of the fiendishly complicated “Shadow World” which quickly segues into a gospelish space chant, “Prepare for the Journey to Other Worlds,” which quotes liberally from “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” A crazed keyboard intro summons up a quick rendition of “Velvet,” with Ra’s distorted organ sound adding a grating, industrial texture to this otherwise swinging, big-band number, which elicits some rather tepid applause at the end. June Tyson then sings “Outer Space (Is a Pleasant Place)” in a pure, soulful tone over a skittering, atonal accompaniment. Soon, however, the instruments take over with some raging sonic chaos which gives way to a mad-scientist organ solo. Ra then introduces the loping groove of “Exotic Forest,” a vehicle for Marshall Allen’s intensely scurrying oboe and Ra’s apocalyptic organ. A quick blast through the fanfare and percussion fest of “Watusi” leads to the cartoony group sing-along, “Enlightenment” and the Tyson-led space chant, “Somebody Else’s Idea,” which cuts off after a minute and forty-eight seconds. This tape is a fascinating glimpse of one of the Arkestra’s first high-profile gigs, but the atrocious sound quality will repel everyone but the most committed fan.

Besides their continued intermittent residency at Slug’s, a few gigs at the Red Garter, and their infamous Carnegie Hall debut, the Arkestra played some of the more luxurious New York venues in 1968 and 1969, including a month-long run at the Garrick Theatre, a stint at the Squat Theater, and even a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Opera House. No matter what the establishment critics and jazz traditionalists thought about Sun Ra, it was becoming apparent that he knew how to put on a show and could draw a paying audience. The Arkestra would be on the road constantly from this time forward and would make their first trip to Europe in 1970, beginning an era of non-stop traveling of the world, bringing the Cosmo Drama and Myth Rituals to the people of the Earth. After a period of scant documentation, the discography begins to overflow with live albums, radio broadcasts, and, yes, audience recordings. Sorting out the seventies is the task ahead here on Sun Ra Sunday.