Robert Spencer here with tonight’s Friday Night Music selection: Sun Ra’s “State Street Chicago.”
Sun Ra was a true American original: a pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger of extraordinary talent, who could reproduce and fully notate an arrangement after hearing it once on the radio. He was also an eccentric who insisted (and never broke character) that he was only visiting the earth from Saturn, and assembled a melange of esoteric philosophy and poetry that graced his album covers and made his band rehearsals part musicianship and part an introduction to a gnostic society of initiates.
He revered order and harmony, and jazz as a perfect expression of that order and harmony as well as, in the solos, an expression of each soul’s individuality. His music is at times big band music of the style that was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, and at times resembled was the dissonance and apparent chaos of the free jazz that John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler were playing in the mid-1960s. At times it was a bit of both.
This piece, composed by Sun Ra, is very inside and swings massively — with Sun Ra’s keyboard work hinting just a bit at other worlds.
Recorded in December 1986:
Sun Ra – piano, synthesizer, vocals
Randall Murray – trumpet
Tyrone Hill – trombone
Pat Patrick – alto saxophone, clarinet
Marshall Allen – alto saxophone, flute, piccolo, oboe
Danny Ray Thompson – alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute, bongos
John Gilmore – tenor saxophone, clarinet, timbales
Eloe Omoe – alto saxophone, alto clarinet, bass clarinet
James Jacson – bassoon, Ancient Egyptian Infinity Drum
Ronald Wilson – tenor saxophone
Carl LeBlanc – electric guitar
Tyler Mitchell – bass
Thomas Hunter, Earl “Buster” Smith – drums