Sunday, May 22, 2011

Space Is the Place

On this date in 1914, Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount) was born. Among all the jazz greats, he was the most eclectic and innovative. His utilization of an afrofuturistic blend of Egyptian/Nubian and Science Fiction elements into his persona and performances really stood out from the crowd. Stylistically, this influence can be seen during the Funk and Disco eras with such bands as Parliament/Funkadelic and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Moreover, in spite of the avant garde nature of his music, the afrofuturism always kept a playful mood, avoiding the self-important seriousness of other cutting edge jazz composers.

As regards his music, he was a prolific composer and performer willing to try out all kinds of new styles. Usually, the result is very engaging. And that's the crux to appreciating Sun Ra's work. Given the vast diverse influences that he incorporates into his music and the experimental improvisation of his performances, it is really difficult to make recommendations in regards to his music. Personally, I like his proto-space music music most, with their rich ambient drones and and exotic rhythms.

Here are two of my favorite pieces:

I hope you check out his music. Sun Ra is unfairly overlooked in surveys of jazz. I only heard of him when he passed away in 1993. That boggles my mind because I had a decent awareness of the history of jazz. And yet somehow this fantastic innovator totally escaped my awareness.

Here's a link to Sun Ra's Wikipedia page.


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