Sun Ra Arkestra: Living Sky album review

According to a recent study in the journal Sciences, astronomers have solved the perpetual mysteries of Saturn: its rings are much smaller than we thought; ‘Lost Moon’ explains its ‘puzzling tendency’. On the new album Living SkyAlto saxophonist Marshall Allen looks much younger than his 98-year-old age. Under his supervision, the Sun Ra Orchestra He has a mission same name—a pianist, composer, conductor, and poet who often claimed to be from Saturn — playing jazz from an exquisitely slanted perspective.

A remastered edition lovingly packaged The future voices of Son Ra– The first release of the jazz legend, recorded in 1961 – recently reminded us of Ra’s first moves away from traditional, structured songs. Here were the first moves to a more organic and collective approach, incorporating jazz and other traditions into an African form that still seems uniquely prophetic. As Ra, who died in 1993, said in the 1974 film Space is the place: “We work the other side of the time.”

Living Sky Followed on the heels of last year hovering, which was Arkestra’s first new studio release in 21 years. The new looks as buoyant as its predecessor, but is more moody and ambiguous. It continues to explore Ra’s rich legacy while introducing new music meant to reinforce his intentions, which have always been about raising spirits as much as upending musical expectations. (Living Sky It was recorded during a pandemic, and like most Ra productions, it can be heard as both defiant and balmy.)

Allen, who played futuristic sounds, immersed in Ra music for more than 60 years, is the clearest embodiment of that aesthetic. On “Chopin” (based on Frederic

Chopin’s song “Prelude in A Major”) makes an alto saxophone creak, distort, and arched numbers that sound oddly cheerful like the version recorded by Ra directly in 1990 Chandelier: Symphonic Jazz. Gone are the introduction to the piano and the grandiose, blues-filled Ra compound. This new version shifts into the same Afro-Latin groove, but is drone-like and slows down to something like a multi-rhythmic lullaby. As on the album, there are subtle, delicious transitions in the foreground and background: here, high-pitched French horn, muted horns, and soft-colored strings move around the planets in orbit.

Ra first recorded “Another Person’s Idea” in 1955 as a simple theme atop an ostinato with a bebop spacer. Paraphrased, indelibly, in 1970, the theme is now a hymn, and the song is a statement of personal empowerment via lyrics sung with advertising power by John Tyson. Now it’s once again instrumental, swaying loosely and vaguely accommodating, with baritone saxophonist Knoell Scott silently cheering the subject on shifting tones. Some paths combine and then drift apart, just like cloud formations, as with “Day of the Living Sky”. Here, Allen plays the kora, a harpsichord-like instrument, not using it for flowing lines, as in traditional West African music, but instead playing urgent, curving notes and playing soft-voiced characters. Allen authors accumulate strength in a direct manner, with a steadily increasing intensity. “Marshall’s Groove” oscillates somewhat on the beat of a cymbal and a slow-walking bass line for about half an 11-minute period before settling into a swinging groove, and intertwining reed, horn and chord phrases hint at the roots of Ra and R&B music. “Firefly,” a rocking ballad Gently, it is beautifully thrown obliquely by the jarring tuning strings and solo strings of the alto saxophone.

Ra’s Arkestra and his compositions have always been mutable beings, and each of his performances is animated more by ideas about collective rituals than by repertoire. Ra composed only two of these seven songs, yet his presence and thoughts seem to hide under them or hover over them all. The nineteen musicians assembled made music full of vocal details of Ra’s past. If they can’t restore the full force or stark authenticity that has characterized their star during his lifetime (who can?) they can really conjure up a wide range of his temperaments and colors, which seem to fit the moment. And they urge us to lean back and listen, with just the right tilt.

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Sun Ra Orchestra: Living Sky

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