Sun Ra – At The Showcase Live in Chicago 1976-1977 (2 CDS) or (2 LPS)

Jazz detective – Street date April 22th 2024
Sun Ra - At The Showcase Live in Chicago 1976-1977 (2 CDS) or (2 LPS)

Sun Ra, truly mythical, a leading figure in a form of jazz with African influences and completely experimental, and whose excellent label Jazz Detective is about to release this perfectly mixed concert, in which you will hear sounds from the Moog of the time, which may certainly seem strange to new generations, but those who fully experienced the seventies will probably see it as a return to the roots.

A total change of scenery that will be perfectly rendered on LP, as the analog tapes from that time will be ideal for this kind of listening. Co-produced with Sun Ra’s archivist, Michael D. Anderson, the album Showcase features energetic and free performances by the 19 members of the Arkestra, featuring many notable soloists from the group, including tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, alto/flute saxophonist Danny Davis, baritone saxophonist Danny Thompson, singer June Tyson, and of course, alto/flute saxophonist Marshall Allen, who currently leads the group at the age of 99. The 1977 engagement resulted in two LPs released the same year on Sun Ra’s Saturn label, “The Soul Vibrations of Man” and “Taking a Chance on Chances.”

And as for releasing such a document, Jazz Detective enriches it with a number of things, richly annotated, including an in-depth essay by Chicago-based writer, musician, and label/gallery operator John Corbett; never-before-seen photographs taken at the Jazz Showcase by Hal Rammel; and informative interviews with Marshall Allen, Sun Ra collaborators Reggie Workman and Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist David Murray, pianists Matthew Shipp, Dave Burrell, Michael Weiss, and Amina Claudine Myers, as well as guitarist and Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore.

Some of the contemporaries of that time speak again about this event, which I present to you here in its entirety due to the importance of their remarks: Feldman, the award-winning “Jazz Detective,” declares about this new archival release: “It’s a huge pleasure to present to you my first collaboration with the Sun Ra estate celebrating the enduring legacy of the great Sun Ra. I’ve been listening to Ra’s music for decades and find huge inspiration and creativity in it. The path to this release began in 2022 when I reached out to my longtime friend Garrett Shelton, who had already worked with Irwin Chusid of the Sun Ra estate and archivist Michael D. Anderson on a Sun Ra project. For several months, Michael and I worked together to find a significant recording that we could pair to publish together. These recordings are an extraordinary find.”

Anderson adds: “I’ve been producing records for over 20 years, and people in the Sun Ra community know me. This one, in particular, is a project I’m proud of because it gives us the opportunity to go to a concert. You’re sitting there, it’s not like the applause is dampened or anything. Here’s something new.”

Corbett’s introduction places the 70s dates in the context of the musical origins of the Windy City: “Sun Ra had a tumultuous history with Chicago. Chicago was, without exaggeration, the place where Ra was conceived. Herman Poole Blount was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914, but Sun Ra emerged in Chicago in the 1950s. In a city teeming with great musical talents and venues suited to almost any enterprise, Ra had many opportunities to hone his craft as an arranger and composer, to test his skills as a conductor, to push his esoteric readings further, to develop his unique performance persona, and to write an entire repertoire of original pieces (in every sense of the word). At the same time, he was free to experiment widely and intensely. Chicago was where Ra imagined, assembled, and incubated his Arkestra.”

Photographer Rammel, who closely witnessed performances at the Jazz Showcase, recalls: “The mystery of how this richly orchestrated Arkestral music – its suite of songs, solos, clearly defined composed or improvised passages – unfolded was continually fascinating… Watching the musicians listen so intensely and react so readily made traveling spaceways with this Arkestra an absolutely unique experience in all my years as a fellow traveler.”

Marshall Allen, whose involvement in Ra’s music spans 65 uninterrupted years, states: “Sun Ra was a genius. He had music in his mind and his own way of playing it, attacking every note. He was also a good teacher and wrote beautiful music. So being in his group was like a dream. Once there, I found a place to stay. He wasn’t just a musician. He was foremost an innovator who could envision the future.”

Some of the jazz greats who played with Ra or saw him in living orbit speak with admiration of him.

Bassist Workman says: “It’s really hard to find big enough words to explain who Sun Ra was, because we’re talking about a very unique character, an educated man, and a very unusual spirit… I was lucky to play with Sun Ra a few times. Either it was a session, or it was a rehearsal or something like that. I was always very busy at that time, but I tried to find time to see him, because being in his company was an important thing. It was quite a special experience for me.”

Drummer DeJohnette says: “Playing with Sun Ra was stimulating. He never set rules on how one should play. He just wrote the music and left it up to each person’s freedom to use their own creative imagination, to interpret the music.”

Recalling his first exposure to Ra’s music at a concert in 1973 in Berkeley, saxophonist Murray remembers: “The group had to finish the concert around midnight and we talked with Sun Ra until about 3 in the morning. He talked about a lot of things. He was so mystical, and we were fascinated. I could barely get a word in. I just couldn’t believe that this man could go from one subject to another and tie them all to mystical things, to the universe, to God. I had never heard anyone talk like that before. I love Sun Ra. I love his music and what he did with it.”

We can only recommend this album if you are interested in Sun Ra and this particular era where everything was a bit all over the place, where everyone was a bit in “experimental” mode seeking renewal socially, culturally, philosophically, and artistically, sometimes even all these points intersected.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 3rd 2024

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To buy this album



Recorded live at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago, IL on February 21, 1976 and November 4th & 10, 1977

CD 1: Recorded on November 4 & 10, 1977

  1. New Beginning [3:00]
  2. View From Another Dimension [9:50]
  3. Visitor’s Approach [8:30]
  4. Ankhnaton [5:48]
  5. Rose Room [6:32]
  6. Moonship Journey [10:19]
  7. Velvet [8:16]

CD 2: Recorded on February 21, 1976

  1. Calling Planet Earth & The Shadow World [17:39]
  2. Theme Of The Stargazers [3:00]
  3. Space Is The Place [7:09]
  4. Applause [1:45]
  5. Ebah Speaks In Cosmic Tongue [3:24]
  6. Greetings From the 21st Century [2:17]
  7. Joe Segal announcements [1:09]

All titles composed by Sun Ra © Enterplanetary Kocepts (BMI)
Except “Rose Room” by Williams-Hickman, arr. Sun Ra

Sun Ra – Piano and Electric Keyboards
John Gilmore – Tenor
Marshall Allen – Alto, Flute, Kora
Danny Davis – Alto, Flute
Elo Omoe – Alt, Bass Clarinet
Danny Thompson – Baritone, Flute
Michael Ray – Trumpet
Ahmed Abdullah – Trumpet
Emmett McDonald – Trumpet
Vincent Chancey – French Horn
Dale Williams – Guitar
Richard William – Bass
Luqman Ali – Drums
Eddie Thomas – Drums, Vocal
James Jacson – Ancient Ihnfinity Drum, Oboe
Atakatune – Congas
June Tyson – Vocals
Cheryl Banks-Smith – Vocals
Wister (Judith Holton) – Vocals