Sun Ra, Some Blues But Not The Kind That’s Blue

Dylan Hicks

By Dylan Hicks

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Some Blues But Not The Kind That's Blue

Sun Ra

Sun Ra drew his audience as much from fringe rockers as from jazzers, partly because his brother-from-another-planet shtick made Ziggy Stardust look like Bart Starr, mostly because his carnivalesque blend of blues, swing, bop and free improvisation so often was, as the title of an early album boasted, the sound of joy. He made most of those joyful noises with the Sun Ra Arkestra, which could swell to 30 members, but his similarly bulky catalog has some intimate sessions, too, such as Some Blues.

It may have ten players, but this feels more like an after-hours jam than a big-band circus.

Six of the nine tracks on this expanded reissue were recorded in 1977 and issued the following year by the leader's Saturn label. Ten players appear on the date, but the feel is more after-hours jam than big-band circus. Ra, on acoustic piano, is joined by longtime sax compatriots John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, along with lesser-known sidemen. They run through a set of standards and blues, predicting the sort of repertoire Ra would work magic on in the '80s. A few of the performances are rough around the edges, but the band shines on an exotic "Nature Boy" and a ten-minute reading of "My Favorite Things," on which tenorman Gilmore, one of Coltrane's influences, returns the compliment with a swirling, raindrops-on-roses solo. The fidelity, as with much of Ra's catalog, is iffy. The previously unreleased tracks are a good, untitled improv with a Cecil Taylor cast, and two 1973 home recordings of "I'll Get By," the better of which has trumpeter Akh Tal Ebah blowing sweetly over a Ra organ caught somewhere between the rings of Saturn and the rinks of hockey.