Sun Ra, The Singles

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Singles

Sun Ra
Four decades’ worth of rare treats from jazz’s most unusual bandleader and his loyal sidemen.

John Gilmore may be the most loyal horn player in jazz history. He could have been a star — played with the Jazz Messengers, taught Coltrane, is reputed to be the inspiration for "Chasin 'the Trane." But beginning in 1953, the tenor saxophonist was a stalwart acolyte of the school of Sun Ra for the better part of 40 years, and then led Ra's Arkestra upon the leader's death. The Singles collects 49 obscure, offbeat 45s sporadically released on Ra's Saturn label over that period; among many other things, it neatly documents Gilmore's yeoman, versatile service to Ra's artistry. You can hear him taking a lively solo on "Supersonic Jazz" (1956); living up to the title of "Big City Blues" (1960); backing up R&B singer Little Mack with a gorgeous solo on "I'm Making Believe" (1962); and teaming with Marshall Allen's oboe while Ra goes wah-wah on Mini-moog on "The Perfect Man" (1973).