Sun Ra in Chronological Order: An Arkestra Listening Thread + Related Solar Sounds

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

greetings, earthlings!

we begin our adventure with sonny's "first commercial recordings" (zwed, p. 51) -- four sides as pianist for wynonie harris, recorded in nashville, 1946.
listen on youtube

i've found that this article is a supremely helpful resource for the early years. here's what campbell et al. have to say:

One transition in his career about which we can safely say that "cosmic forces" were not in control took place in January 1946, when Sonny, fed up with segregation and lack of musical opportunities, bought a one-way train ticket to Chicago. He was soon out on the road in a combo led by alto saxophonist Jimmie Jackson. For three or four months they played Club Zanzibar in Nashville, where they backed the touring blues singer Wynonie Harris. An unlikely setting, maybe. But Harris already had made several hit records on the West Coast, and a brand-new local label started by a radio announcer saw fit to capitalize. Label owner Jim Bulliet cut a deal with Harris's manager, Harold Oxley, and Harris and combo (with the old fashioned rhythm section of piano and drums) made four sides. One of them was Sonny's feature, Dig This Boogie. He'd obviously learned his blues lessons. In fact, he'd developed a few tricks of his own, like deliberately dropping beats and picking them up in the next line.

some other good links as we get started:

Sun Ra, the ultimate album guide
Sun Ra Arkive

for the most part, though, we'll be going by arkestra (usually LP) release date as listed on discogs

finally, PLEASE feel free to interject with whatever chronological arcana you feel might be applicable, or to point out discrepancies, or to suggest alternate takes, bootlegs, archival material of interest, etc. ultimately this thread is about listening to as much sun ra as possible, with a minimum of academic quibbling, but i don't see any problem with the more astute among you opening doorways to ever-deeper directions of listening, even if this thread probably can't incorporate the entirety of the sun ra omniverse.

next up: the singles

budo jeru, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:04 (three months ago) Permalink


sleeve, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:05 (three months ago) Permalink

whoops that's SZWED, as in john f. szwed, as in the author of "space is the place: the lives and times of sun ra"

budo jeru, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:08 (three months ago) Permalink

thank you budo jeru for starting this up! thanks for the extra links and article excerpt in the first post, as well. i know it's more work but i loooove those extra post elements. it feels like turning the page in a magazine and finding an especially good scratch n sniff perfume ad.

i'm excited to learn a lot more about sun ra. i only know a few of what i think are his better known albums (heliocentric worlds, space is the place, jazz by / sun song, the futuristic sounds of), along with other snippets of his albums that will pop up on playlists and mixes. it's all good. even in my limited listening his versatility has become so apparent. anyway, i feel like i'm ready for a deep dive.

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:16 (three months ago) Permalink

btw i started a spotify playlist here.

WARNING: i was just using the discogs release date as my guide, so it starts with supersonic jazz and goes forward from there. but i already added in the first song posted above, and i'll fill in the others as they get posted to keep it up to date.

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:21 (three months ago) Permalink

I saw Karl Malone's post this morning and cued up what of his linked discogs list is on spotify. Stunned to find about 80% of it! I'm now five albums in (When The Sun Comes Out) and am loving every minute. Sun Ra has for me been an artist who I never thought I'd have to the resolve to approach systematically so I'm thankful for this thread.

Yelploaf, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:22 (three months ago) Permalink

Thanks bodo and Karl!

Jeff W, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:30 (three months ago) Permalink

i haven't started a new year off so right in a very long time. 2018 is going to be different. it's an even number!

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:31 (three months ago) Permalink

Looking forward to this - great thread

raise my chicken finger (Willl), Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:37 (three months ago) Permalink

it's an even number!
my people

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:49 (three months ago) Permalink


Karl Malone, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 19:51 (three months ago) Permalink

thanks for the spotify playlist, KM!

btw 2018 is the year of the DOG [from OE, docga] >>> D O C G A

or, AD COG (ad cogitationem, "toward reflection")

budo jeru, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 20:41 (three months ago) Permalink

i dig that boogie! this is a cool thread idea ... not sure if I'll be able to do the whole thing, but will definitely be checking in.

tylerw, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 20:42 (three months ago) Permalink

budo jeru i don't envy the task of having to decide what is "chronological". there are all these side recordings, home and rehearsal recordings, things that were recorded early but released much later. whichever way you go, i'll try to make the playlist match up where possible!

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 20:44 (three months ago) Permalink

yeah i don't plan on sweating it too much. close enough will be fine and, like i said initially, anyone is welcome to jump in with corrections / objections.

in terms of your playlist, i'll say right off the bat that sun ra plays on all of the four last songs on that wynonie harris comp, so you might add the other three after "dig this boogie"

budo jeru, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 20:52 (three months ago) Permalink

got it! i wasn't sure if you were going to go song by song or not. release by release makes sense because holy shit there's a lot.

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 20:58 (three months ago) Permalink

stoked for this thread and ready to get schooled!

global tetrahedron, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 21:04 (three months ago) Permalink

i think my favorite moment from this first recording session is the piano accompaniment during the trumpet solo on "my baby's barrelhouse blues" and then into the last vocal stanza or whatever.

also the lyrics !!! geez

i'm gonna snatch me a picket off o' somebody's barbwire fence,
i'm gonna beat you 'side your head until you learn some sense

budo jeru, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 21:28 (three months ago) Permalink

when i first heard this early ra arrangement i said: that's so ra! but he didn't play on it so it doesn't really count here...

scott seward, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 21:55 (three months ago) Permalink

yeah that's a killer side.

also cf. szwed:

... he began rehearsing the band for Saunders and playing in the relief band that filled in when Saunders was off. Every week Saunders handed him new arrangements for the floor show, but during rehearsals Sonny began to make small changes -- a note here and there, an alternation in a chord -- but as time went on the changes became increasingly dramatic. During rehearsal one day Saunders walked in, looked over an arrangement, and shook his head when he saw the crossed-out notes and inserted harmonies: "I give you these nice, clean arrangements each week, and look what you do with them! ... But, damn, they sure sound good, though." Sonny was now rewriting arrangements used to accompany singers like B.B. King, Laverne Baker, Dakota Staton, Joe Williams, Johnny Guitar Watson, Sarah Vaughan, and Lorenz Alexandria.

and then, on the instrumental side, there's his amazing arrangement of 'summertime' (also for red saunders)

budo jeru, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 22:22 (three months ago) Permalink

Lorez Alexandria***

budo jeru, Tuesday, 2 January 2018 22:23 (three months ago) Permalink

OK I'm already confused, I'll have to try and damp down my OCD in this thread

Jazz By Sun Ra/Sun Song has ten songs, but only five are in the playlist? Maybe this is a Spotify availability thing idk

Technically (at least acc. to Szwed) the tracks "Super Blonde", "Soft Talk", "Springtime In Chicago" and "Medicine For A Nightmare" were recorded in "early 1956", as opposed to the Sun Song sessions from July, so those four tracks should come before the Sun Song/Jazz By Sun Ra tracks as opposed to the rest of the Supersonic Jazz tracks

really enjoying the early records, thanks for this thread

also keep in mind that lots of the remasters are now on Bandcamp

sleeve, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 01:57 (three months ago) Permalink

man it all goes weird when you get to "India", huh? jazz heads back then must have not known what hit 'em

I can def. hear the exotica influence on this track, Martin Denny percussion vibes

sleeve, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 02:05 (three months ago) Permalink

Jazz By Sun Ra/Sun Song has ten songs, but only five are in the playlist? Maybe this is a Spotify availability thing idk

nah, i just fucked up. fixed!

i'm really getting ahead of myself anyway - i was just planning on adding to the playlist as this thread progresses, but i jumped the gun yesterday and already started adding the first few albums.

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 02:06 (three months ago) Permalink

Technically (at least acc. to Szwed) the tracks "Super Blonde", "Soft Talk", "Springtime In Chicago" and "Medicine For A Nightmare" were recorded in "early 1956", as opposed to the Sun Song sessions from July, so those four tracks should come before the Sun Song/Jazz By Sun Ra tracks as opposed to the rest of the Supersonic Jazz tracks

on this though, i have to make clear upfront that i probably won't be this meticulous. i don't have the szwed book so i was just planning on placing the albums/singles into the playlist in full as we cover them in this thread, according to their release date, rather than splitting them up in the playlist according to their recording date.

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 02:09 (three months ago) Permalink

haha that's fine, unless you looked at everything in advance I'm sure we'd miss some (for example, we've already missed some tracks that appeared much later on "Purple Night". we can note tracks w/different/older dates when we get to those albums in order of release.

now I need to go back and listen to those other five tracks! thanks.

sleeve, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 02:17 (three months ago) Permalink

there's also this recent find from the archives, which is great and not on Youtube unfortunately:

recorded 1955

sleeve, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 02:22 (three months ago) Permalink

I was just reading his wiki bio and had not realized he was buried in Birmingham. I guess I'd assumed he was buried in Philadelphia. I think I'll try to make a brief pilgrimage to his grave in 2018.

WilliamC, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 03:02 (three months ago) Permalink

the magic city

the late great, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 03:24 (three months ago) Permalink

So this thread could potentially go on forever, right?

At least it's good music and not greatest outtakes of The Eagles or some such.

Moodles, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 03:39 (three months ago) Permalink

i'm on board though as always spotify is out for me. are we going to cover the doo-wop stuff at all? because man i love his doo-wop stuff, and if we're getting into his mambo i want to talk about "teenager's letter of promises".

bob lefse (rushomancy), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 03:45 (three months ago) Permalink

sleeve: thanks for your diligence. it's sure to be useful at almost every point (i'll do my best, too). and yeah, pointing out discrepancies as they come up between release / recording date -- that's what i had in mind. otherwise i'd just feel incapacitated. we'll sort it all out as we go.

rushomancy: we'll definitely cover the doo wop stuff. re: listening, since KM is doing spotify, i'm trying to post youtube links as we go along. there's also the (official, more or less) sun ra bandcamp: (and that material is also available on itunes)

So this thread could potentially go on forever, right?


budo jeru, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 04:17 (three months ago) Permalink


the late great, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 04:50 (three months ago) Permalink

interlude, 1948-1954

most of this information and ALL of the quoted text comes from this article, which i HIGHLY recommend for its exhaustive coverage of sun ra's chicago period through 1961: From Sonny Blount to Sun Ra: The Chicago Years

1. the "deep purple" duet with stuff smith, recorded in 1948 and first made available in 1973 on saturn 485
listen on youtube

On his very first tape machine, Sonny recorded Stuff Smith and himself playing in his tiny apartment at 5414 South Prairie Avenue. They performed a duet featuring the Solovox, a primitive electronic instrument that Sonny had picked up back in 1941, while still in Birmingham. Sonny had a thing about purple (he thought people would be healthier if they ate more purple food). He released Deep Purple nearly a quarter century later on his Saturn label, and the tune remained in his repertoire for the rest of his career. It would be featured on his very last recording session, when he accompanied Billy Bang for Soul Note in 1992.

2. solo church organ recording, 1948

3. piano accompaniment for the dozier boys
listen on youtube

In October 1948, Sonny became the music director of a successful medium-sized band. Bassist Gene Wright, at the tender of age of 23, was simultaneously running a big band and a 10 or 11 piece aggregration called the Dukes of Swing (two previous incarnations of the Dukes had been in operation in 1943 and 1946). For a while, the big band was upstairs in the Pershing Ballroom while the Dukes held the gig at the Beige Room (as the basement club in the Pershing Hotel was then known). During most of the engagement, the Dukes worked with a vocal-instrumental quartet called the Dozier Boys. Sonny composed or arranged the Dukes' entire book. Many of these pieces were of a strictly functional nature (floor shows again) but their theme number was a suite based on the theme from Spellbound, an ambitious work by composer Miklos Rozsa. If only we were lucky enough to have that on record....

The engagement with the Dukes did bring Sonny some recording work, first as session pianist for the Dozier Boys, then with the entire band. Both sesssions were done for the fledgling Aristocrat label. It was the Doziers who came to the company's attention first, courtesy of bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon.

4. various solo, duet, and trio recordings made at home w/ the ampex. many featuring the nu-sounds of the solovox. most of these recordings are available on the norton and transparency labels (see article linked at beginning of post for specifics). some of these recordings document SR's first compositions, performed by his proto-arkestra small combo.

In 1950 or 1951, he started a band to play his own, frankly far-out music. He called it the Space Trio: one charter member was Laurdine "Pat" Patrick (1929 - 1991), who played alto and baritone sax. The drum chair was occupied on some occasions by Tommy Hunter. On other occasions it was taken by Robert Barry, who would soon emerge as a leading bebop drummer in town.

5. arrangements and accompaniment for the red saunders orchestra, 1948-1953 (see szwed quote upthread). red saunders backed joe williams (see scott's post above), lavern baker, jo jo adams, and dorothy donegan.

1953 was the year of the arrangements. Sunny was making no commercial recordings of his own, and probably didn't feel that his experimental ensemble was ready to make them. But he was willing now to put his stamp on arrangements written for others, to a degree not previously heard. His name did not appear on a single record label in 1953—in one case the band's didn't either—but Red Saunders was now recording his aggressively "modern" arrangements: "Voodoo Blues," "It's Raining Again," "Summertime." And the opening bars of "Call My Baby" announce, for all who care to hear, that Sun Ra has arrived.

6. six cuts with coleman hawkins, rec. 1953 and released in 1955 on savoy

7. possible arrangement for king kolax, 1954
listen on youtube

There is no need for Sun Ra arrangements (or anybody's arrangements) on generic jump band-style R&B like "Right Now," "What Have You Done to Me?," or "Goodnite Blues." However, "Vivian" (presumably named after Vivian Carter of Vee-Jay) is a mysterioso Latin number with percussion breaks built right into the theme. Off the beaten path for King Kolax, but straightforward for Sun Ra at this time. Harold Ousley did not want to rule out "Vivian" as a Sun Ra arrangement either: "Kolax wrote a lot himself, but he also used a lot of other people's stuff."

OKAY! that gets us into 1954/1955, so next we'll move onto the nu sounds / cosmic rays stuff and the rest of THE SINGLES

budo jeru, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 07:56 (three months ago) Permalink

That Red Saunders "Summertime" is Ra all over.

WilliamC, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 14:00 (three months ago) Permalink

oh man, this is a good batch of stuff! the meager musical critical sensibilities i have fall to the wayside when i hear early 1950s music. just about everything of the period sounds good to me.

i updated the playlist where i could - red saunders "summertime", "riverboat", and the red saunders orchestra's "honky tonk train blues". but spotify is missing the sun ra releases that feature a lot of his early recordings through the late 40s and early 50s - Deep Purple (or Dreams Come True) - as well as most of saunders' other recordings. and no dozier boys or king kolax, sadly.

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 15:31 (three months ago) Permalink

man it all goes weird when you get to "India", huh? jazz heads back then must have not known what hit 'em

"Sun Song" gets there first imo

(the blues version in his Broadway show) (crüt), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 15:50 (three months ago) Permalink

OK I'll give that a closer listen, thanks! I was making dinner for some of the Spotify playlist last night and I think that's one of the tracks that Karl added later

sleeve, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 15:55 (three months ago) Permalink

yeah, it's definitely a work in progress! and any track in the playlist beyond what budo jeru has posted here is very, very provisional.

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 16:17 (three months ago) Permalink

those Red Saunders tracks are so good

Brad C., Wednesday, 3 January 2018 20:23 (three months ago) Permalink

wow, that version of "deep purple" with stuff smith from 1948 is so good. it has a lovely, meandering melancholy sound. stuff smith is good!

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 20:36 (three months ago) Permalink

This is a great thread, I'll be here for the ride.

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 20:37 (three months ago) Permalink

(also ty for spotify playlist km!)

♫ very clever with maracas.jpg ♫ (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 20:37 (three months ago) Permalink

no prob! i just hope no one skips ahead of the thread and thinks that the next songs on the playlist represent the correct order! i'm just kinda searching for songs that I think will be upcoming and adding them in the generally correct area of the playlist, but as the thread progresses I'll keep adjusting things to match it.

the solo church recording from 1948 youtube posted above is really good, too. in the midst of these more traditional sessions with other musicians, it shows that he was already interested in going on cosmic voyages in his own work

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 20:44 (three months ago) Permalink

more youtube links:

Andy Tibbs Dozier Boys with Sax Malllard's Combo + Sun Ra on piano, recorded nov 1948, released dec 1948: In a Traveling Mood (just the first song)
Andy Tibbs & the Dozier Boys + Sun Ra on piano, recorded nov 1948, released jan 1949: In Every Man's Life

Dozier Boys with Eugene Wright + Sun Ra on piano and arrangements, recorded dec 1948, released Sept 1949: Music Goes Round and Round
(couldn't find "Pork n Beans" or "Dawn Mist", from the same session)

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 21:04 (three months ago) Permalink

after some searching, i found the 6 tracks that Sun Ra/ Blount played on The Hawk Returns (search for "Sun31" here on the amazingly exhaustive Chicago Years link posted above: . They were included on the Confessin': The Astounding Coleman Hawkins comp, which is on Spotify.

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 21:46 (three months ago) Permalink

Sun Ra studies should be a standard department at universities

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 21:47 (three months ago) Permalink

Not to be too much of a party pooper, but is the idea of the thread to listen to all the stuff that's been posted so far and then discuss at some point? Or are we going to go song by song like the Billy Joel thread?

Moodles, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 21:56 (three months ago) Permalink

(looking forward to 1965 -- "cosmic chaos" is my jam)

reggie (qualmsley), Wednesday, 3 January 2018 22:15 (three months ago) Permalink

not sure! personally i'd rather go release by release since there are around 125 LPs to go through, not even counting other releases.

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 3 January 2018 22:16 (three months ago) Permalink

now i have my afternoon listening set out, thanks again Finn!

just curious - are these all from the Eternal Myth boxset, and are you uploading all of the early ones or just your faves? (either way is obviously appreciated!)

Karl Malone, Thursday, 11 January 2018 16:40 (three months ago) Permalink


Chicago, April 23, 1956 - Sun Ra Arkestra

Somebody Else's World (Sun Ra)

Blues in Outer Space (Sun Ra)

Space Aura (Sun Ra)

Sun Ra (piano, Wurlitzer); James Scales (alto sax, bells); Wilburn Green (electric bass)

Youtube Link

call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Thursday, 11 January 2018 16:41 (three months ago) Permalink


All from the Eternal Myth box set. I've restricted it to my favourites of the ones where Sun-Ra is definitely playing or leading. From the ones where he is playing I think I've only missed some solo piano recordings and some rehearsals with Pat Patrick that seemed a little superfluous. I can however upload or send the other tracks on request.

That's all of the 1956 material I currently intend to upload from the boxset - though there are a couple more recordings from 1958 and 1960 that I will upload when we are there.

call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Thursday, 11 January 2018 16:51 (three months ago) Permalink

awesome, thanks so much. speaking for myself, I think this is plenty, no need to hear him as a sideman really

is that cool version of "It's A Good Day" on that box set?

sleeve, Thursday, 11 January 2018 16:53 (three months ago) Permalink

Nope it doesn't but here you go

call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Thursday, 11 January 2018 18:38 (three months ago) Permalink

really loving the "haunted melody" that finn posted ( - starts at 5:40), part of 4 songs recorded that on March 9, 1953, somewhere in Chicago. there's so little information on it. the campbell website lists the personnel as:

Sun Ra (org); "Thea Barbara" (female voc -1); unidentified (male voc -2).

Thea never shows up again in the Chicago years, and she only sings on one song from this set (she sings along with the unidentified vocalist on "haunted melody")

Karl Malone, Friday, 12 January 2018 17:42 (three months ago) Permalink

i did not mean to embed the youtube in the middle of the sentence there. sorry!

Karl Malone, Friday, 12 January 2018 17:42 (three months ago) Permalink

Finn, thanks again for this material. i'll get around to listening to these recordings in the next couple of days and then post 1957 on sunday.

also thanks for the john corbett link!

budo jeru, Saturday, 13 January 2018 04:16 (three months ago) Permalink

So was catching up on 1956 and the Jazz by Sun Ra / Sun Song reissue cover reminded me a bit of the Screamadelica cover.

On actual viewing they aren't so similar. However the search found this article with Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie talking about their 2013 album More Light.

“River of Pain” sticks out as one of those songs where you might have been stretching yourself more than before.
Oh yeah. “River of Pain” and “Tenement Kid.” Structurally and lyrically, we’ve never really done anything like that. It’s like cartoon-future-Sci-Fi-psychedelia. I love the groove on “River of Pain,” it’s this desert blues folk song. Even before the lyrics start, it conjures pictures in your mind. It’s very cinematic. The middle section where it breaks down has the Sun Ra Arkestra. It has this real sense of mystery and beauty.

How did that Sun Ra collaboration come about?
They were stranded because of a volcano eruption in Iceland. All transatlantic flights were cancelled for a week or ten days so they were stuck. They played three nights in London and I went two nights. A couple nights later I went to go see Lou Reed play Metal Machine Music and I started talking to a promoter he mentioned to me that the Sun Ra guys were stranded and he was trying to do a benefit gig for them. I had the idea that we should hire them to come play on their album so the next day I gave the idea to the promoter and he managed to sort it out that Marshall Allen and three of the other guys came up and played on “River of Pain” and “Sideman.”

Obviously this is the Sun Ra Arkestra post Sun Ra but still a funny link to crop up. Link to River of Pain

Back to Jazz by Sun Ra/Sun Song, hot damn that drum and tympani work on A Street Named Hell

call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Monday, 15 January 2018 18:43 (three months ago) Permalink

"An unrecorded Arkestra: from left, prob. Lucious Randolph, trumpet; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Marshall Allen, alto sax; unidentified, baritone sax. Budland, 1957 or 1958; from The Cry of Jazz."

(all quotes from the campbell discography unless otherwise noted)

kind of a thin year, but some interesting stuff nonetheless. here's some context:

During the period that concerns us, Saturn was a singles label. The first three Arkestral releases were on 45s (though some reappeared on LP much later). There were just two LPs: Supersonic Jazz, which came out in 1957, after it was clear that there would be no more Transitions, and Jazz in Silhouette, from 1959. An item in the Chicago Defender, from June 1959, announced that Saturn had released 6 singles by then. The bulk of the Arkestra's Chicago recordings would go unreleased until 1965, and some waited a good deal longer.


As 1957 began, the Arkestra was still at Budland, sometimes restricted to the Monday morning "breakfast dance." Cadillac Bob must have regretted the expense after Dinah Washington did a return engagement over the holidays. In the future, it was Herman Roberts of Roberts Show Lounge who would lay out the fees she demanded. No longer would Budland regularly book big-name singers from out of town. During the first six weeks of the year, gigs at the club were not being advertised and the place was nearly empty. But organ trios were suddenly popular in the Black community and Cadillac Bob decided to put one together in mid-Febuary. By early March, Tom Archia was fronting the trio on tenor sax and customers were returning. For the next six months, the club was able to sustain itself, but its resurgent advertisements kept passing over Sunny's contribution.

Studio time cost money, too. For the next couple of years, Ra and Abraham usually made do with tapes cut at rehearsals or in the clubs. The 1957 Arkestra isn't well documented on records—just a handful of instrumental tracks were ever released, all of them from rehearsals. By the beginning of 1958 there had been major alerations to the lineup. An adventuresome alto saxophonist from Indianapolis named James Spaulding (1938- ) came into the fold in July or August of 1957. Spaulding sounded the same then as he would years later — about halfway between Cannonball Adderley and Ornette Coleman. Alto saxophonist Marshall Allen (born May 25, 1924 in Louisville, Kentucky) had wandered into Chicago in 1952, after a sojourn in Europe. Playing in his spare time while he maintained a day job at the Rivier Camera Company, he sought out Sun Ra after hearing the Transition album. He and Spaulding added their flutes to the Arkestral armamentarium. And then there was bassist extraordinaire Ronnie Boykins (born in 1932), another graduate of DuSable High School who had been playing in R&B bands.


Despite the sore lack of publicity, the band did get some use out of Budland. One of Sunny's conditions on any club gig was that the Arkestra be allowed to rehearse at the club when it was empty. The next session was recorded at such a rehearsal.

that session being:

1. recordings with hattie randolph on vocals, resulting in four cuts.

Sun Ra (p); Calvin Newborn (eg); Victor Sproles (b); Tito (cga).
Budland, Chicago, August 25, 1957
listen to 's wonderful' on youtube

Hattie Randolph says these tracks were made live at Budland after Art Hoyle left the band. The bassist is not Ronnie Boykins; Victor Sproles was credited on the Saturn LP jacket. Tito is the only conga player that other musicians have recalled working with Ra during the 1950s. The three sides were first released in 1973 on Side A of Saturn LP 485, Deep Purple (some copies titled Dreams Come True). All tracks from Side A were reissued on Evidence 22014 (CD, 1992). Transparency 0316, The Eternal Myth Revealed Vol. 1 is a 14-CD set released in 2011. It includes a second take of "Don't Blame Me" as well as a scrap of conversation between the takes.

2. session with calvin newborn on guitar

Sun Ra (p); Calvin Newborn (eg); Victor Sproles (b); Tito (cga).
Budland, Chicago, August 25, 1957

the two tracks are available on the "eternal myth" box set.

calvin newborn is an interesting figure and the "last living member of the newborn family jazz dynasty." according to the ponderosa stomp website:

The family band held down the floor at Memphis' Flamingo Room every weekend (where young Calvin often beat Pee Wee Crayton in legendary after-hours 'Battles of the Blues') and even hit the road as Ike Turner's band with 'Rocket 88' - the hit that according to Calvin, started rock 'n roll. Ike taught Calvin how to drive - in return, Calvin taught Ike his first guitar licks. Calvin also taught Elvis Presley how to gyrate, using his own 'Calvin's Boogie' as inspiration for hip-shaking. In '55, Calvin and Phineas Jr. hung up their rock 'n roll shoes and moved to New York, where they opened for Count Basie at Birdland and recorded their jazz debut for Atlantic. Calvin spent the '60s playing with Earl 'Fatha' Hines, Wild Bill Davis, Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, and Sun Ra.

3. sessions with yochanan (the space age vocalist)

Yochanan (voc) with Sun Ra (p); John Gilmore (ts); prob. Victor Sproles (b); prob. Robert Barry (d).
Studio recording, Chicago, probably 1957
listen to 'muck muck' on youtube

it looks like most or all of this material is split between the '96 2xCD "singles" release and the norton 'rocket ship rock' CD comp

There is residual uncertainty about the date of the first Yochanan single, but if it was made in 1957 (as seems fairly likely), it was the only studio recording for Saturn that year. We have yet to locate any bills or paperwork, either for the recording session or for the production of the single.

Yochanan (an extra 'n' was later added to his name, perhaps for numerological reasons) was an eccentric R&B performer in Chicago who wore 'sun colors' and open-toed sandals, said he was 'descended from the Sun,' and gave 'wild man' performances in clubs and along Maxwell Street. Although his work with Sun Ra would sometimes take him in other directions, Yochanan is best understood as a fringe blues performer.


What Yochanan's birth name was remains a mystery. His place of origin is also unclear, though as noted above others on the Chicago blues scene thought he was from Memphis. John Gilmore recalled Yochanan hanging around rehearsals while the band was playing at Budland but after Jazz by Sun Ra. By contrast, Julian Priester (who left the band in the Fall of 1956) does not remember him. Hattie Randolph recalls Yochanan, whose nightclub act at least occasionally included jumping over tables, as well as this single. We have learned from other sources (see Miriam Linna's notes to the Rocket Ship Rock CD) that Yochanan had a longstanding affiliation with Alvenia Fulton, who ran the Fulton Institute of Health and Fasting at West 63rd and Damen Avenue.

4. two recordings, from late 1957 or early 1958, which ended up on "visits planet earth" (the rest of that LP consisting of the '56 sessions covered above)

-- "planet earth" (ra)

Sun Ra (p, solar p [Wurlitzer ep], Egyptian sun bells), Lucious Randolph (tp); Nate Pryor (tb); James Spaulding (as); Marshall Allen (fl); John Gilmore (ts, solar bells, tambourine); Pat Patrick (bars, Rhodesian bells, solar drum); Ronald Boykins (b); Jim Herndon (timb); Robert Barry (d)
Rehearsal, Chicago, late 1957 or early 1958

-- "overtones of china" (ra)

Sun Ra (ep, p, spiral percussion gong, Chinese solar gong); Lucious Randolph (tp); Marshall Allen (as, fl); James Spaulding (as); John Gilmore (ts, solar drum); Charles Davis (bars); Pat Patrick (space lute); Ronnie Boykins (b); Robert Barry (d); Jim Herndon (tymp, timb).

Rehearsal, Chicago, late 1957 or early 1958

These two tracks were released in 1966 on Side A of Saturn LP 9956-11-A/B, Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth. (A third track, "Eve" from Side A of the same LP was formerly listed here, but turns out of have come from the same session on November 1, 1956 that produced side B of the album; see above.) In 1967, it was given the catalog number 207. In 1992, all tracks from this LP were reissued on Evidence 22039 (CD). The extensive solo credits on the Saturn jacket were helpful in establishing the personnel. James Spaulding joined the Arkestra soon after his arrival in Chicago in August 1957; Marshall Allen and Ronald Boykins were in the fold by the beginning of 1958 and may have joined earlier. Julian Vein gives early 1958 as the date for these three items. Lucious Randolph said that the date is approximately correct, and was positive about his appearance on “Planet Earth” (on which he solos) but not completely sure about “Eve” and “Overtones of China.” (And that is just as well, since no trumpet is actually audible on "Eve," which we have now placed with the session of November 1, 1956).

budo jeru, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 00:25 (three months ago) Permalink

whoops, the hattie randolph personnel should read:

Sun Ra (p); Victor Sproles (b); Tito (cga); Hattie Randolph (voc).
Budland, Chicago, August 25, 1957

budo jeru, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 00:26 (three months ago) Permalink

I kind of love that nobody knows jack shit about the Yochanan guy

sleeve, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 00:48 (three months ago) Permalink

haha yeah

budo jeru, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 00:57 (three months ago) Permalink

i think the only new additions to the playlist are the tracks from Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth. I arranged them so they're sequenced after Jazz by Sun Ra, with the five 1956 tracks first and the two 1957 tracks afterward.

I'm listening to Visits Planet Earth right now and really enjoying it so far. "Eve" is one of my faves so far

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 03:13 (three months ago) Permalink

thanks man! gonna check it out now

sleeve, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 03:28 (three months ago) Permalink

I also LOVE that brief Calvin Newborn bio above

sleeve, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 03:28 (three months ago) Permalink

Back to Jazz by Sun Ra/Sun Song, hot damn that drum and tympani work on A Street Named Hell

― call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Monday, January 15, 2018 12:43 PM (yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

no kidding! also check the tympani solo on "reflections in blue" around 5m22s

budo jeru, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 06:16 (three months ago) Permalink

I will do!

A tiny bit more colour re: Yochanan

one Hattie Randolph remembers catching his shtick in a nightclub in Kokomo, Indiana--"When he started his act and began leaping over the tables, one woman jumped up and shouted, 'He's possessed'! and ran out of the club"

- The Hound

call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Tuesday, 16 January 2018 09:17 (three months ago) Permalink

hi gang, sorry i've been neglecting the thread. '58 and '59 tonight!

budo jeru, Sunday, 21 January 2018 22:12 (three months ago) Permalink

lol Finn, from the same blog post you linked to:

My buddy Junie Booth played bass with the Sun Ra Arkestra for many years, he told me when they went to Birmingham, Alabama for Sunny to be presented with the key to the city, midway during the ceremony Sunny turned to him and said-"I hate this fuckin' town, that's why I always told people I was from Saturn".

budo jeru, Monday, 22 January 2018 04:10 (three months ago) Permalink

1958, pt. 1

(all quotes from the campbell et al. discography)

1. sun ra and his rays of jazz (three tracks)

Sun Ra (p); Marshall Allen (as, fl); John Gilmore (ts); unidentified (eg); unidentified (b); unidentified (d); Clyde Williams (voc).
Live at Budland, Chicago, 1958

These tracks were unearthed by Michael Anderson and issued in 2011 on The Eternal Myth Revealed Volume 1 (Transparency 0316, a 14-CD set). The recording was made live at Budland, with the tape recorded parked on the bandstand. Clyde Williams was featured on all three numbers but is markedly off-mike; the influence of Joe Williams is nonetheless noticeable on "Roll 'em Pete."

listen to the original joe turner track (no sun ra involvement) on youtube

2. le sun ra and his arkestra, "hours after"

Le Sun Ra (p); Everett (E. J.) Turner (tp); Marshall Allen (as); James Spaulding (as); John Gilmore (ts); Pat Patrick (bars); Ronnie Boykins (b); William “Bugs” Cochran (d); Alvin Fielder (d).
Rehearsal, Chicago, mid 1958

Saturn J08W0245/J08W0246 was a 45 rpm single with a gold label, released in October 1958. According to paperwork preserved in the Alton Abraham Collection (Box 16, Folder 6 part 1), Saturn placed its order for this single with RCA Victor on September 26, 1958, and received a shipment of 275 copies on October 2. (Meanwhile, the J prefix duly indicates that the records were pressed by RCA Victor in 1958). “Hours After” was the A side. The only copy of the single yet to be located is in the possession of Leonard J. Bukowski. The track was reissued in September 1996 on The Singles, Evidence 22164 (2 CDs).

a different recording of the same tune appears on "jazz in silhouette" (1959). original is linked below.
listen on youtube

3. the "pershing ballroom all-star jam"

J. J. Johnson (tb); Gene Ammons (ts); Pat Patrick (bars); Sun Ra (p); Ronnie Boykins (b); Robert Barry (d).
Pershing Ballroom, Chicago, August 15, 1958

Thirty-three minutes of music from a genuine all-star jam session are preserved on this tape. Pat Patrick, J. J. Johnson, Gene Ammons, and Sun Ra all solo at length. The sound is pretty good, except that J. J. Johnson is off-mike during the first two numbers. "I Can't Get Started" is a feature for Pat Patrick and "Don't Blame Me" is reserved for J. J. Johnson. Personnel identified by Michael Anderson; members of the audience helpfully call out "J. J." and "Mr. Jughead." All four tracks were released in 2001 on The Eternal Myth Revealed Vol. 1, a 14-CD set compiled by Michael Anderson.

4. le sun ra and his arkestra, "great balls of fire" (B side of "hours after")

Le Sun Ra (Wurlitzer ep); Lucious Randolph (tp); John Gilmore (ts); Pat Patrick (bars); BeBop Sam Thomas (eg); William “Bugs” Cochran (d); Alvin Fielder (d); Jim Herndon (tymp); unidentified (perc).
Rehearsal, Chicago, August or September 1958
listen on youtube
"BeBop Sam Thomas (second from left) in 1957 or 1958, from The Cry of Jazz."

“Great Balls of Fire” came from a different rehearsal with much better sonics than the session that produced “Hours After.” (Alton Abraham said it was a studio session; if so, Robert Barry would be one of the drummers and not Alvin Fielder.) Personnel identified by rlc and corrected by Alvin Fielder (the first edition of this discography identified Ronald Wilson as the baritonist but Fielder does not recall working with him in the Arkestra). According to Alvin Fielder, Sam Thomas was the only regular guitarist in the Arkestra at this time, though Art Jobs worked with Ra briefly. Fielder also says that when the Arkestra used two drummers, he worked with William Cochran, not Robert Barry. He places the session in “late summer or early autumn 1959.” (This is probably right about the season but definitely wrong about the year). Saturn Records placed an order for J08W0245/0246 on September 26, 1958, and received a shipment of 275 copies on October 2, 1958.

5. sun ra arkestra (four tracks, live)

Sun Ra (p, Solovox); Marshall Allen (as, fl); John Gilmore (ts); Pat Patrick (bars, cl); BeBop Sam Thomas (eg); Ronnie Boykins (b); unidentified (d).
Budland, September 23, 1958

listen to 'tequila' on youtube

6. "star time" rehearsal recording
listen on youtube
listen on bandcamp

In 1959, "Star Time" was being considered for inclusion on a Saturn LP to follow Jazz in Silhouette. The plans were abandoned, but one of two trial versions of an LP side survives as K8OP-2864-2, a custom pressing done for Saturn by RCA Victor, with "Star Time" as the third of five tracks.

The track did not see release for several years. It finally appeared on an LP first issued (in a generic Tonal View of Times Tomorrow cover) by Saturn in 1966 as SR 9956-11E/F, Lady with the Golden Stockings. In 1967, this album was given the catalog number 406; by the end of 1967 (according to Vein) it was retitled The Nubians of Plutonia and by 1969 given a new cover by Richard Pedreguera. Subsequent reissues (on Impulse AS-9242 in 1974 and Evidence 22066 CD in 1993) have used the later title. We obtained titles and personnel from the 1969 Saturn and Impulse issues.

7. six cuts w/ the cosmic rays

The Cosmic Rays: Calvin Barron (voc); Matt Swift (voc); Lonnie Tolbert (voc); unidentified (voc); with Sun Ra (Wurlitzer ep); E. J. Turner (tp); Marshall Allen (fl); James Spaulding (as); John Gilmore (ts); Charles Davis (bars); Ronnie Boykins (b); Robert Barry (d); Jim Herndon (tymp); Pat Patrick (space lute).
Rehearsals, Chicago, 1958
listen to 'bye bye' on youtube

budo jeru, Monday, 22 January 2018 05:24 (three months ago) Permalink

really swell guitar solo on "great balls of fire" imo

budo jeru, Monday, 22 January 2018 05:31 (three months ago) Permalink

okay, looks like i messed up #7. the date and personnel there are not the same as the single for which i've provided a photo and link. that was a different (rehearsal) session, unreleased until the 2003 atavistic CD comp. i'll get to the single version in '58 part 2

budo jeru, Monday, 22 January 2018 05:44 (three months ago) Permalink

1958, pt. 2
"Jim Herndon in 1958. From The Cry of Jazz."

(all quotes from the campbell et al. discography unless otherwise noted)

1. the cosmic rays, "daddy's gonna tell you no lie" (rehearsal take)

The Cosmic Rays: Calvin Barron (voc); Matt Swift (voc); Lonnie Tolbert (voc); unidentified (voc); Sun Ra (dir).
Rehearsal, Chicago, 1958 or 1959

not released until 1983, as a 45 on saturn with "foggy notion" by the nu sounds as the flip side (rec. 1955, see upthread)
listen to the demo version on youtube

2. the cosmic rays, "bye bye" b/w "somebody's in love" (first track linked to and pictured upthread). the correct session info:

The Cosmic Rays: Calvin Barron (voc); Matt Swift (voc); Lonnie Tolbert (voc); unidentified (voc); Le Sun Ra (p -1, dir); unidentified (eg); prob. Ronnie Boykins (b); Robert Barry (d); Jim Herndon (timbales -2).
RCA Studios, Chicago, c. August 1958

listen to 'somebody's in love' on youtube

3. three rehearsal tracks with a vocal group called the crystals

The Crystals: four unidentified male vocalists; Sun Ra (p).
Rehearsal, Chicago, November 21, 1958

After Alton Abraham's death in 1999, a rehearsal tape with a previously unknown vocal group called The Crystals gained legendary status. The surviving tracks were released in 2009 on Norton CED-352, Sun Ra: Interplanetary Melodies, and Norton CED-353, Sun Ra: The Second Stop Is Jupiter.

"Little Sally Walker," unlike nearly everything else that Sunny did with vocal groups, is a rock and roll performance. (A member of the group can be heard at the end of track, complaining about spending 3 hours on "Little Sally Walker," but listeners today might think the results are worth it.) Little Sally Walker rides, of course, on a (flying) saucer. "Honey in the Bee Box" sticks closer to the original children's song, and at times the singers have some trouble taking it seriously.

The rehearsal date was provided by Michael Anderson. Ra's tapes also included "Eddie C Rock," a live tape from around this time of the Crystals (and possibly of members of the Arkestra) backing bluesman and occasional rock and roller Eddie Clearwater. This was so poorly recorded as to preclude reissue.


listen to 'little sally walker' on youtube

4. the cosmic rays, "dreaming" b/w "daddy's gonna tell you no lie"

The Cosmic Rays: Calvin Barron (voc); Matt Swift (voc); Lonnie Tolbert (voc); unidentified (voc); with Sun Ra (p); Ronnie Boykins (b); Robert Barry (d); Tito (cga).
prob. Sheldon (Chess) Studios, Chicago, poss. August 1959
listen to 'dreaming' on youtube
listen to the 'daddy's gonna tell you no lie' on youtube

5. juanita rogers / lynn hollings recordings (two cuts, released 1960)

Juanita Rogers (lead voc); Lynn Hollings (narration); 4 unidentified males (voc); Mr. V [Sun Ra] (p, dir); unidentified (ts); unidentified (eg); unidentified (d).
Somebody's living room, Chicago, 1958 or 1959

Thanks to Michael Arlt for alerting us to this release; he describes the sonics accurately by saying it was “made in somebody's living room.” James Jacson confirmed Sunny's involvement and says that the release derived from an “old, old paper tape” in Sun Ra's private collection. Sun Ra recorded paper tapes on his Sound Mirror from 1948 until at least 1954 (when he reportedly recorded some very early solos by John Gilmore on a paper tape—nothing more is known about these items, unfortunately). However, Robert Pruter dates these sides from 1958 or 1959, based on the vocal style. It is not known whether the Five Joys are the same as the “Five Jays” (male lead, female lead, three male backup singers) whose publicity photo is in Robert Pruter's collection. However that may be, Sun Ra told Arkestra members that he wrote the arrangements for this date. On “Teenager's Letter of Promises,” the episodes with Hollings as the (heavily reverbed) narrator have obviously been spliced in by an amateur.
listen to 'teenager's letter of promises' on youtube

6. multiple sessions, with multiple personnel changes, for the "lady with the golden stockings" AKA "nubians of plutonia" LP. all are rehearsals, chicago, 1958 or 1959. along with the "star time" rehearsal, all of the material for the LP was recorded in either 1958 or 1959
listen to 'plutonian nights' on youtube
listen to the full album on bandcamp

a. plutionian nights (ra)
b. lady with the golden stockings (ra)
c. nubia (ra)
d. africa (ra)
e. watusa (pitts-sherrill; arr. ra)
f. aiethopia (ra)

szwed on "the nubians of plutonia" (p. 171):

With this record Sonny showed his response to the burst of interest in Latin rhythms set off by the mambo in the mid-1950s and the calypso craze of 1957-58. And like many big bands, the Arkestra's take on these rhythms was less specifically Latin than a North American impression of these rhythms within dance-band conventions. The Arkestra was in effect reinventing these rhythms. Where Cuban musicians might layer a few discrete rhythms together to interlock and form an emergent new rhythm, North American musicians often heaped a number of percussion instruments together, all playing the same rhythm. Despite the comparative complexity of many of these pieces there is a tendency for them to simplify when the solos begin -- to turn into the blues or a rhythm jam with no chordal accompaniment. (...)

The implication of these recordings is that a piece of music could be built out of the simplest of elements: a continuing string of drum rhythms and a series of melodies based on a chord or even a single note. Or nothing. On one hand it was a primitivist gesture, but it was also a stripping away of the previous generation's obsession with harmonic complexity.

sun ra bandcamp:

Research herewith on vocal ensembles for tracks 5 and 11, variously identified by historians as The Nu Sounds or The Cosmic Rays: These groups are not the same ensembles, nor do they have overlapping members. The actual vocalists on these tracks might not be either group (the original Saturn LP back cover says "Arkestra" on "Africa"). Lacking session logs, any identification of vocalists on these tracks is speculative. The vocalists on "Black Sky" are unknown and could have been overdubbed at a date later than the original recording.

budo jeru, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 08:02 (three months ago) Permalink

"track 11" referring to a bonus track on the bandcamp page

budo jeru, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 08:03 (three months ago) Permalink

Thanks for this! I don't have much to contribute, but I'm enjoying it, and I know it's a lot of work.

Leaghaidh am brón an t-anam bochd (dowd), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 08:24 (three months ago) Permalink

you're welcome :)

budo jeru, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 08:26 (three months ago) Permalink

campbell et al.

While the Arkestra enjoyed its long initial run at Budland, Sun Ra stopped coaching vocal groups. During 1958 and 1959 Sunny renewed his interest in them. He mentored several ensembles (including Mr. V's Five Joys and the Qualities), but the Cosmic Rays were his pride and joy. The Rays were four young men from the West Side of Chicago; their manager, Raymond Dancer, lived on the South Side and had been acquainted with Ra for a little while. Ra, of course, named the group the Cosmic Rays. Sun Ra was a serious believer in community outreach, and he hoped to change their destinies, but despite his efforts it has been said that all four made bad exits from the planet many years ago. (The lead singer, Calvin Barron, died in the 1980s, supposedly in a murder-suicide.) "They were connected with a barbershop. I taught them other things."

budo jeru, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 08:29 (three months ago) Permalink

john gilmore on the cosmic rays:

We’d go down to the barber shop and rehearse them. Sun Ra had them singin’ some beautiful stuff. I think he probably was saving them from themselves. He heard them, heard their potential, snatched them off the street, and started making them do something constructive.

budo jeru, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 08:31 (three months ago) Permalink

john corbett:

Before they were the Cosmic Rays, Barron and company were a nameless vocal quartet working outdoors in Chicago’s black neighborhoods during the mid-‘50s. It was on the beach at 63rd and Jackson Park that a man named Raymond Dancer first heard them, liked them and suggested that he manage them. Like Sun Ra, Dancer was a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and he’d seen Ra lead a big band in Birmingham in what must have been a return engagement at a masonic hall sometime in the very early ‘50s. Late in ’56 or early the following year, Dancer met Sun Ra at Budland, during one of his Arkestra appearances at the club. He told Ra about the group and it was Ra’s suggestion that he bring them by and informally audition them.

At this point, sometime in ’58 or ’59, Ra took the group under his wing, became their musical director, dubbed them the Cosmic Rays and began to rehearse them. Dancer, who was the “money man”, rented a meat-packing union hall (near DuSable High) for rehearsals, which generally ran as Arkestra rehearsals first, the Rays waiting and listening, then joining or rehearsing with Ra while the band took a break. Dancer recorded most of the rehearsals himself. They might also rehearse after Ra’s Monday morning gig (8am-12pm!) on 48th Street. He remembers Ra passing out writings suggesting what could be accomplished, philosophically, and the way things should be. They performed a couple of times, once at Budland and once at McKee’s, as special guests with the Arkestra.

"Edited from John Corbett’s liner notes for the compilation ‘Spaceship Lullaby’ (Atavistic / Unheard Music Series) and the book ‘Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein’ (Duke University Press, 1994)"

(same link as john gilmore quote)

budo jeru, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 08:33 (three months ago) Permalink

Lovely! I've been in Sweden the last week so a bit behind, will enjoy catching up over the next week.

Wrt the 1958 ones available on the Eternal Myth boxset, I'll upload them tonight/tomorrow.

call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 09:18 (three months ago) Permalink

"not released until 1983, as a 45 on saturn with "foggy notion" by the nu sounds as the flip side (rec. 1955, see upthread)"

sun ra covering the velvets would be such an awesome thing

who am i kidding marshall allen's arkestra probably did it with yo la tengo at some point (the arkestra's contributions to "little honda" are super fine)

Arnold Schoenberg Steals (rushomancy), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 14:00 (three months ago) Permalink

the spotify playslist is updated (the new batch starts with "hours after" and ends with "aiethopia")

daddy's gonna tell you no lie is infectious. i skipped ahead to the cosmic rays material on the afternoon that all of this started, and it's been one of my favorites ever since

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 19:59 (three months ago) Permalink

I'm still imagining... some fan is at a Sun Ra show in 1983, goes to the merch table, grabs what they think is a new single, and then when they put it on they get 50's doowop with no context or date.

sleeve, Tuesday, 23 January 2018 20:00 (three months ago) Permalink

"not released until 1983, as a 45 on saturn with "foggy notion" by the nu sounds as the flip side (rec. 1955, see upthread)"

sun ra covering the velvets would be such an awesome thing

who am i kidding marshall allen's arkestra probably did it with yo la tengo at some point (the arkestra's contributions to "little honda" are super fine)

― Arnold Schoenberg Steals (rushomancy), Tuesday, January 23, 2018 8:00 AM (eleven hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

ha yeah, meant "a foggy day" obv

many more typos to come!

KM, i was gonna say i get "daddy" stuck in my head for days and days. something about the way he says "record shop"

the crystals song i posted above has some really funny "studio" banter at the end. like, "c'mon man, we've been practicing this song for THREE HOURS."

budo jeru, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 01:43 (two months ago) Permalink

after i posted that i remembered i do have something that sounds like sun ra covering the velvets - the cover of ferryboat bill by ahh! folly jet from the '90s japanese velvet underground compilation "rabid chords". they basically sing "ferryboat bill" over "love in outer space". i'd link to it here but it's Too Obscure for Youtube. i've been looking for ahh! folly jet's full-length album "abandoned songs from the limbo" for decades.

sorry for the digression. i like the demo version of "daddy's gonna tell you no lie" way better than the "proper" version. that's basically who i am, though. i also love "teenager's letter of promises" so much, although now that i have some kind of reasonable understanding of how it came about i'm slightly disappointed. it's one of the most alien sounding things i've heard from sun ra.

Arnold Schoenberg Steals (rushomancy), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 14:27 (two months ago) Permalink


Pershing Ballroom, Chicago, August 15, 1958

Chi-Town Blues

Just You, Just Me (Raymond Klages, Jesse Greer)

I Can't Get Started (Ira Gershwin, Vernon Duke)

Don't Blame Me (Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields)

J. J. Johnson (trombone); Gene Ammons (tenor sax); Pat Patrick (baritone sax); Sun Ra (piano); Ronnie Boykins (double bass); Robert Barry (drums).

Youtube Link

call me by your name..or Finn (fionnland), Friday, 26 January 2018 19:39 (two months ago) Permalink

is 1959 time? i've been loving the singles but i'm ready for the thread to start hitting all of these amazing albums!

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 16:47 (two months ago) Permalink

hi KM, yeah. i was really hoping to blast through 1959-63 or so but uh, just life stuff. idk, hard week.

really appreciate everybody on this thread for tuning in. will try to get it together and make some arkestral manoeuvres in the next couple days.

budo jeru, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 23:21 (two months ago) Permalink

oh hell yeah

Karl Malone, Tuesday, 30 January 2018 23:31 (two months ago) Permalink


hey everyone, me and budo jeru are going to tag team this for a while. i’m going to do 1959 today, and then 1960 sometime this week. i am winging it, so if i miss something important please help fill in the gaps. as with the rest of this thread so far, a lot of the quotes and information come from and i don’t know what we’re going to do when we reach the end of the chicago years (around 1960-61) and the scope of the clemson guy’s research expires, but for now, it seems to be pretty authoritative (he often identifies

as always, don’t forget there’s a spotify playlist that evolves along with this thread. it lines up with this thread as things are posted, and then anything on it that’s beyond the thread is just kind of a non-comprehensive hodgepodge of upcoming material that might not be in the proper order yet.

1. Jazz in Silhouette (Recorded March 6,1959; Released May 1959)

Jazz in Silhouette originally had a silk-screened cover, attributed to one "H. P. Corbissero," with an abstract design and the title (variants can be seen in Geerken and Hefele's Omniverse Sun Ra, and in Pathways to Unknown Worlds, p. 46). Copies are known in pinkish red and black and in golden brown and black. John Corbett has suggested that the silk-screen design was done by Ra himself.

In 1961, Saturn was ready for another pressing run from RCA Victor, placing an order for 300 copies at 33 cents an LP on October 28, 1961.

the 1961 repress cover:

Le Sun Ra-p, celeste; Hobart Dotson-tp; Bo Bailey-tb; James Spaulding-as, fl; Marshall Allen-as, fl; John Gilmore-ts; Pat Patrick-bs, fl; Charles Davis-bs; Ronnie Boykins-b; William Cochran-d.

recorded March 6, 1959 (according to research done by the clemson guy. previously, it was thought to have been recorded in late 1958.

(this was Dotson’s last session with Sun Ra. he was apparently developing a robotripping addiction which caused problems with the non-drugtaking Ra, and after this session he hopped on a BB King tour and then moved to NYC, where he ended up recording with mingus in 1960 and 1965)

Side A:
Enlightenment (Dotson-Ra) (5:02)
Saturn (Ra) (3:37)
Velvet (Ra) (3:18)
Ancient Aeithopia (Ra) (9:04)

Side B:
Hours After (E.J. Turner) (3:41)
Horoscope (Ra) (3:43)
Images (Ra) (3:48)
Blues at Midnight (Ra) (11:56)

one more interesting tidbit about Jazz in Silhouette to help understand how Sun Ra’s music was being received (or wasn’t) during this era:

As for Jazz in Silhouette, it didn't get one single review in the jazz press. Its importance wasn't understood until it was reissued by Impulse 15 years later.

2. Sound Sun Pleasure!! (Recorded March 6,1959; Released 1970)

these songs, mostly standards, were recorded during the same session as Jazz in Silhouette (an insane one-day marathon that produced two full LPs!), but it wasn’t released until 1970.

same personnel as Jazz in Silhouette, above.

Side A:
'Round Midnight (Hanighen-Monk-Williams)
You Never Told Me That You Care (Hobart Dotson)
Hour of Parting (Schiffer-Spoliansky)

Side B:
Back In Your Own Backyard (Jolson-Rose-Dreyer)
Enlightenment (taken from Jazz in Silhouette) (Dotson-Ra)
I Could Have Danced All Night (Lerner-Loewe)

3. “Interstellar Low Ways” ((Recorded March 6,1959; released 1966 (or 1965) (or 1967)
“Interstellar Low Ways” was also recorded as part of that absurdly productive 3/6/1959 session, but it wasn’t released until the 1966 album Interstellar Low Ways (or 1965 or 1967 - even the Clemson guy doesn’t know). There will be more on that recording in the 1960 update.

4. “October” (Recorded 1959, Released 1968 and then reissued on Singles compilation)
this was a one-off recording session with a slightly smaller group: Sun Ra (p); Walter Strickland (tp); unidentified (tb); John Gilmore (ts); Pat Patrick (bars); Ronnie Boykins (b); poss. William Cochran (d).

5. Cry of Jazz (premiered April 3, 1959)

The Cry of Jazz was not a documentary about the Arkestra, though the narrator refers to the "The Sun Ra" is an innovator in jazz, and "Call for All Demons" is presented as an example of his music. Rather, the Arkestra's function is to illustrate the stylistic evolution of jazz. Members of the band are shown on screen performing a Dixieland number (title uncertain), Swing (Bland stretched a little by choosing "Urnack" as an example), bop ("Super Blonde"), a Cool number ("Who, Me?" by Paul Severson), and "The Sun Ra." A quintet is shown playing "Blues at Midnight" (as an illustration of improvising over chord changes), and Sunny appears at the piano thrashing the same passage over and over (to illustrate the lack of growth potential in jazz; the passage is exerpted from "Lela" by Eddie Higgins, from another Paul Severson album). During part of this scene the trombonist from the "Dixieland" band is also present, barely discernible in the murk. The film then shows flames about to consume slum tenements while a distorted fragment of the Dixieland music shrlls on the soundtrack. The Arkestra can be heard but not seen during another segment (playing "Demon's Lullaby”).

“The Cry of Jazz premiered on April 3, 1959. It ran for a week, two showings a night, at the Lincoln Center (700 East Oakwood Boulevard). A single private showing followed on April 28, at the Union Nations Building in New York City. Another showing took place at the Sherman Hotel during a party for the Playboy Jazz Festival in July; still another at Gerri's Palm Tavern (446 East 47th Street) on August 23.”

the cry of jazz is on youtube, as of this posting.

i think that’s it for 1959! everything covered in this update was on spotify, so the playlist is updated through “October”. we’ll have 1960 ready to go in a few days. there’s a one-day recording session that takes place in 1960 that is just O_O. if you have any corrections or additional material or or images or links to writing about this era or other cool things, be sure to post them below!

Karl Malone, Saturday, 10 February 2018 16:43 (two months ago) Permalink

“Ancient Aiethopia” is my favorite on Jazz in Silhouette. it borrows the main theme and tom-heavy percussion from the song “Aiethopia” (recorded in 1958 and later released on various comps), but it goes off into lots of other wild directions over the course of 9 minutes, including a ra piano solo that takes over halfway through and dissolves into a really weird vocal chant (which involves singing/speaking through the mouthpieces of the horns, i think?). after a short drum solo, the way that the bass and piano re-enter sounds so natural and yet ahead of its time, somehow. a lot of the rest of Jazz in Silhouette plays it relatively straight, so this track always stands out for me and points toward some interesting directions i know we’ll be hearing loads more of as we proceed.

Karl Malone, Saturday, 10 February 2018 18:12 (two months ago) Permalink

things take such an amazing leap in 1960 :)
i'll post an update later tonight (although i guess the weekends aren't a great time for this thread? i could wait til tomorrow too)

i remember the corned beef of my childhood (Karl Malone), Sunday, 18 February 2018 20:56 (two months ago) Permalink

Sorry about no update. Getting ready to watch SPACE IS THE PLACE (1974) on the big screen, though :D

i remember the corned beef of my childhood (Karl Malone), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 00:59 (two months ago) Permalink


weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 01:28 (two months ago) Permalink

Thanks Karl and Budo for this thread. I'm catching up and have got to Jazz by Sun Ra so far. I appreciate the hard work in doing this.It certainly works for me that it's taken a breather for the moment.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Wednesday, 21 February 2018 23:11 (two months ago) Permalink

hi thread!

1. thanks to KM for temporarily taking the reigns.

2. i've decided to take an indefinite leave from all internet activities besides checking my email 2x / day. if anyone would like to take it from here, please feel free. if not, perhaps we can all meet back here in a few months and start where we left off. either way is fine with me. i'm so very pleased that so many people have enjoyed the thread so far. sorry i can't stay on as leader.

peace 2 u arkestral admirers !!

budo jeru, Thursday, 1 March 2018 20:05 (one month ago) Permalink

Peace to you too budo x

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 1 March 2018 20:13 (one month ago) Permalink

budo jeru take as much time as you need, no worries at all. i'll get in gear and keep it going, and then hop back in whenever you're feeling better. i definitely have an idea of where you're coming from. hang in there man.

i remember the corned beef of my childhood (Karl Malone), Thursday, 1 March 2018 20:20 (one month ago) Permalink

hang in there!
thread regulars may be amused to know that my music appreciation students were introduced to sun ra this week via his version of "take the A train" (we listened to several traditional versions last week)
they were perplexed, but enjoyed the costumes

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Friday, 2 March 2018 04:53 (one month ago) Permalink

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.