picture of Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Sun Ra (* 1914 in Alabama as Herman Poole Blount) was a composer, bandleader, piano and organ player known for his experimental music, "cosmic" philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. For much of his career, Sun Ra led the "Arkestra," an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up.
 
Sun Ra became involved in the Chicago jazz scene during the late 1940s. He soon abandoned his birth name, taking the name Le Sony'r Ra, shortened to Sun Ra (after Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun). Claiming to be an alien from Saturn on a mission to preach peace, he developed a mythical persona and an idiosyncratic credo that made him a pioneer of Afrofuturism. Throughout his life he denied ties to his prior identity, saying "Any name that I use other than Ra is a pseudonym."
 
His widely eclectic and avant-garde music echoed the entire history of jazz, from ragtime and early New Orleans hot jazz, to swing music, bebop, free jazz and fusion. His compositions ranged from keyboard solos to works for big bands of over 30 musicians, along with electronic excursions, songs, chants, percussion pieces, and anthems. From the mid-1950s until his death, Sun Ra led the musical collective The Arkestra (which featured artists such as Marshall Allen, John Gilmore and June Tyson throughout its various iterations). Its performances often included dancers and musicians dressed in elaborate, futuristic costumes inspired by ancient Egyptian attire and the Space Age. Following Sun Ra's illness-forced retirement in 1992, the band remained active as The Sun Ra Arkestra, and, as of 2018, continues performing under the leadership of veteran Sun Ra sideman Marshall Allen.
 
Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained influential throughout his life for his music and persona. He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards and synthesizers. Over the course of his career, he recorded dozens of singles and over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1,000 songs, making him one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century. Sun Ra passed away in 1993.
 
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Discography
Angels And Demons At Play
El Saturn Records 407
recorded 1956 and 1960 in Chicago, IL/USA
Sun Ra, piano, organ
Marshall Allen, alto sax, flute
Pat Patrick, alto sax, baritone sax, flute
John Gilmore, tenor sax, bells
Charles Davis, baritone sax
Julian Priester, trombone
Nate Pryor, trombone
Arthur Hoyle, trumpet
Phil Cohran, trumpet
Ronnie Boykins, bass
Victor Sproles, bass
Wilburn Green, bass
Robert Barry, drums
Jim Herndon, timpani, timbales
Nuits De La Fondation Maeght Vol. 1 + 2
Shandar SR 10.001/10.003
recorded live August 1970 in Saint-Paul de Vence/France
Sun Ra, piano, organ, synthesizer
Marshall Allen, alto sax, flute, piccolo flute, oboe, percussion
Danny Davis, alto sax, flute, percussion
Pat Patrick, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, bass clarinet, clarinet, flute, percussion
Absholom Ben Shlomo, alto sax, clarinet, flute
John Gilmore, tenor sax, drums
Danny Thompson, bariton sax, bassoon, flute
Jame Jacson, clarinet, flute, oboe, percussion
Robert Cummings, bass clarinet, drums
Kwame Hadi, trumpet
Ahk Tal Ebah, trumpet, cornet
Alan Silva, bass, cello, violin
Rashied Salim IV, vibes, drums
Drums - Nimrod Hunt, drums
Lex Humphries, drums, percussion
John Goldsmith, drums, timpani
Universe In Blue
El Saturn Records ESR200
recorded early 1970 in New York City/USA
Sun Ra, organ
Danny Davis, alto sax, clarinet
Marshall Allen, alto sax, oboe, piccolo flute, flute
John Gilmore, tenor sax
Pat Patrick, baritone sax
Danny Thompson, baritone sax, flute
Akh Tal Ebah, trumpet
Kwame Hadi, trumpet
Eloe Omoe, bass clarinet, piccolo flute
Alzo Wright, cello
Lex Humphries, drums, percussion
June Tyson, vocals
Sunrise In Different Dimensions
Hat Hut Records hat ART 2017
recorded live February 1980 at Gasthof Mohren in Willisau/Switzerland
Sun Ra, piano, organ
Noël Scott, alto sax, baritone sax, flute
Marshall Allen, alto sax, oboe, flute
John Gilmore, tenor sax, clarinet, flute
Kenneth Williams, tenor sax, baritone sax
Danny Thompson, baritone sax, flute
Michael Ray, trumpet, flugelhorn
Chris Henderson, drums
Eric Walker, drums
Live At Praxis '84
Golden Years Of New Jazz GY 5/6
recorded live February 1984 at The Orpheus Theatre in Αθήνα (Athens)/Greece
Sun Ra, piano, organ, synthesizer, voice
Eloe Omoe, alto sax, bass clarinet, contra-alto clarinet, flute, electronic wind instrument, percussion
Marshall Allen, alto sax, clarinet, flute, oboe, kora, electronic wind instrument, percussion
Danny Ray Thompson, alto sax, baritone sax, flute, bongos, electronic wind instrument
John Gilmore, tenor sax, clarinet, timbales, electronic wind instrument, voice
James Jacson, bassoon, flute, oboe, ancient Egyptian infinity drum, electronic wind instrument, voice
Ronnie Brown, trumpet, flugelhorn, tambourine
Bass - Rollo Redford, bass
Don Mumford, drums, percussion
Congas - Matthew Brown, congas
Congas, Percussion - Salah Ragab, congas, percussion

 
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