Sun Ra was one of the first jazz artists I was aware of (outside of the absolutely most famous ones like Louis Armstrong). And I resolved that I would become a fan, I guess because of how weird he seemed. Well, that never happened and, decades later, this is only my second Ra album. It is, of course, a very weird place to dive into his catalogue.
What I’ve got in front of me is the original LP’s tracks (including a full version of a track edited down for the release for some unknown reason) plus two tracks released on an album years later and a bonus track. Someone has figured out it all belongs to this record but was released in the way it was because… who knows? (Ra maybe responsible but so could the label, right?) That’s all I know about the history of this, as I am not actually a Ra fan yet and don’t know anything about how this compares to his ’70s music.
I do know free jazz relatively well. Though not as well as I did when I was listening to perhaps too much of it maybe a decade ago. Some (okay, a lot of) free jazz can seem directionless but that is rarely the case on this record. Some of that really has to do with Ra’s use of keyboards for strange and wonderful noises, which surprised the hell out of me more than a few times and gave the record a spacier or more futuristic feel than I’m used to for free jazz.
I am also a sucker for less common wind and reed instruments and there are a more than a few here, sometimes doing some skronking that I’m not sure I’ve heard from just such strange instruments. So I find that appealing too.
The original album seems to have been far too short and I really don’t know why. But this fleshed out version has plenty of stuff that is appealing to me even if it’s far from the most compelling free jazz I’ve ever heard. I’m not sure I would have felt that way about the original album but given that I am listening to what I am listening to, I’ll pretend I liked the original.