UNITY, reviewed by Tim Niland at the "Music and More" blog
Oct. 13, 2020
This is an unusual and fascinating Sun Ra album with the Arkestra expanding to full big band size and committing themselves to mostly swing repertoire. This album was recorded live at Storyville jazz club in New York City during October of 1977, and it is really interesting to hear the band swing like mad, which must have silenced a lot of critics who looked down on their costumes and more free playing.
After weaving gracefully through the standard “Yesterdays” things really begin to pick up steam with the inclusion of Duke Ellington’s “Lightnin” and Ra’s own “Lights on a Satellite.” But the highpoint of the recording comes when the band jumps into a couple of early jazz barnburners, “Yeah, Man” and “King Porter Stomp.” This expanded twenty member version of the Arkestra latches onto these big riffs and just doesn't let go. They get such an authentic sound that you can imagine them as a territory band blowing up towns in the midwest in the 1930’s with their massive hot jazz sound. Ra stitches together Tadd Dameron’s “Lady Bird” and the Miles Davis vehicle “Half Nelson” which have similar structures and allow the band some room to stretch out, as does a version of “My Favorite Things” that owes more to John Coltrane than Julie Andrews.
The program winds down with an excellent version of the Sun Ra original “Satellites are Spinning” with vocalist June Tyson leading the group through the vocal chant and then making way for an excellent improvised instrumental section. The album wraps up with a short version of Ra’s beautiful original “Enlightenment” that ends the concert on a thoughtful and beautiful note.
This album was originally released on the Italian Horo label in 1978, and this digital reissue sounds very good, making this unique and high quality Sun Ra album widely available again.
released October 8, 2020
Recorded live at Storyville jazz club, New York, October 24 & 29, 1977
Sun Ra (organ, Rocksichord)
Marshall Allen (alto sax, oboe, flute, percussion)
Danny Davis (alto sax, flute, percussion)
John Gilmore (tenor sax, clarinet, timbales, vocal)
Danny Ray Thompson (baritone sax, flute, percussion)
Michael Ray (trumpet)
Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet)
Akh Tal Ebah (trumpet, vocal)
Craig Harris (trombone)
Charles Stephens (trombone)
Vincent Chancey (French horn)
Emmett McDonald (bass horn)
Eloe Omoe (bass clarinet, flute, percussion)
James Jacson (flute, bassoon, Infinity-drum)
Richard “Radu” Williams (bass)
Tommy "Bugs" Hunter (drums)
Luqman Ali (drums)
Atakatune (conga, percussion)
Eddie Thomas (percussion, vocal)
June Tyson (vocal)
A Helpful Guide to the Many Sun Ra Albums on Bandcamp: daily.bandcamp.com/2017/10/13/sun-ra-album-guide
figure in musical Afro-futurism and space-jazz. Keyboardist, composer, Arkestra leader, arranger, philosopher-jester, fashion icon, cosmic guide. Born Herman Blount in Alabama, 1914, left the planet in 1993, giving Earthlings a monumental catalog of recordings that transcend genre....more