Musical Abduction

May 19, 1999 at 12:00 am

Hey! This performance was recorded live at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in 1973! Not only that, it was preserved by Detroit’s favorite rock ’n’ roll revolutionary, John Sinclair. While the old White Panther’s hair is turning gray down in New Orleans of late, Sinclair’s document of Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Orchestra is still as insurgent as ever. Captured at a time when free jazz was on the rise and Sun Ra’s esoteric cosmology had reached full flower, this live recording is another fine testament to jazz’s most "out there" bandleader-composer. With an outrageous arsenal of squealing saxophones manned by Ra mainstays, including legendary tenor star John Gilmore and altoist Marshall Allen, Sun Ra leads his faithful entourage through a number of thoroughly original compositions. The theme of outer space permeates the entire set and Sun Ra’s use of Farfisa and mini-Moog is otherworldly, even by today’s standards. Ra’s sprawling big band arrangements are filled with layers of percussion as well as wild, multiphonic smears of reeds and brass. Vocalist June Tyson brings the proceedings back to Earth, but only to spread messages like "The Universe Has More to Offer You." Exhorting angels and aliens alike, Sun Ra’s space-age exhibitionism broke the barrier between tribal-cult shamanism and playing music with a band, just as Duke Ellington did before him and George Clinton has done since. Not the best Sun Ra disc and certainly not the worst, Outer Space Employment Agency is waiting for you to apply.