SUN RA- SINGLES THE DEFINITIVE 45s COLLECTION.

SUN RA- SINGLES THE DEFINITIVE 45s COLLECTION.

Ever since his death in 1993, interest in Sun Ra’s music has grown. That comes as no surprise. He was a fascinating figure, and one of most enigmatic and innovative musicians in the history of music. The man that many referred to as Mr. Mystery  is nowadays regarded as one of the most important figures in jazz. 

He was also a pioneer. Constantly, Sun Ra pushed musical boundaries as he combined Egyptian history with space-age cosmic philosophy and freeform jazz. However, Sun Ra was more than a musician, bandleader, composer He was also a cosmic philosopher, writer and poet. Sun Ra was a complex character.

Over the years, Sun Ra’s complex persona and mythology evolved. He saw himself as a pioneer of Afrofuturism, who believed he was alien from Saturn. His mission on earth was to preach peace, and the medium he used to this, was music.

The music that Sun Ra recorded covers and incorporates every aspect of jazz music, including swing and bebop to fusion. Sun Ra was the original musical chameleon, and his music continued to evolve over the course of a truly prolific career. He released over 125 albums over the course of career that spanned six decades.

Many of the albums that Sun Ra released were often pressed in small numbers, and came wrapped in a plain white cover. These have become highly collectable. So have the countless singles that Sun Ra released. They were also released in limited numbers, and are one-offs. Nowadays, they’re incredibly rare and indeed, valuable. This means they’re beyond the budget of most record collectors. However, Strut Records have collected sixty-one four of Sun Ra’s singles for a recently released box set, Singles The Definitive 45s Collection. It documents a forty year period in Sun Ra’s career.

This includes the early years of his career in Chicago. During this period, Sun Ra gave spoken word recitals, worked with various duets and small groups. Many of the singles document the evolution Sun Ra’s Arkestra. This includes its early years, right through to its heyday when it numbered thirty musicians. These singles were released between the early fifties right up until 1992. They document a large part of the Sun Ra’s career. His story began in the deep South in 1914.

Herman Poole Blount was born on 22nd May 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama. Very little is known about Herman’s’s early life. So much so, that for years, nobody knew what age Herman’s was. What is known, is that growing up, Herman immersed himself in music from an early age. 

He began to learnt to play the piano  aged five. Soon, he was a talented pianist. By the age of eleven, Herman was to able read and write music. It wasn’t just playing music Herman enjoyed. When musicians swung through Birmingham, Herman’s was there to see everyone from Duke Ellington to Fats Waller. This inspired Herman to become a professional musician.

By his mid teens, Herman was a high school student. However, music was Herman’s’s first love. Music teacher John T. “Fess” Whatley realised this. He helped Herman’s’s nascent musical career. John was a strict disciplinarian. This rubbed off on Herman. Later, he would be relentless taskmaster when he formed his Arkestra. This worked. When the Arkestra were in full flow, they were peerless. However, that was way in the future. Before that, Herman’s’s career was just unfolding.

In his spare time, Herman was playing semi-professionally. He played in various jazz and R&B groups and as a solo artist. Before long, Herman was a popular draw. This was helped by his ability to memorise popular songs and play them on demand. Strangely, away from music, the young Herman was very different.

He’s remembered as studious, kindly and something of a loner. Herman’s was a deeply religious young man. That is despite not being a member of a particular church. One organisation that Herman joined was the Black Masonic Lodge. This allowed Herman’s access to one of the largest collection of books in Birmingham. For a studious young man like Herman’s, this allowed him to broaden his knowledge of various subjects. Whether this included the poetry and Egyptology that would later influence Herman’s’s musical career.

The next step in Herman’s’s musical career came in 1934. Ethel Harper, his biology teacher from the high school, had a band. Herman was asked to join. After joining the musician’s union, Herman toured the Southeast and Midwest. Then when Ethel left the band to join The Ginger Snaps, Herman took over the band.

With Ethel gone, the band was renamed The Sonny Blount Orchestra. It headed out on the road and toured for several months. Sadly, The Sonny Blount Orchestra wasn’t making money. Eventually, the band split up. However, other musicians and music lovers were impressed by The Sonny Blount Orchestra.

This resulted in Herman being always in demand as a session musician. He was highly regarded within the Birmingham musical community. So much so, that Herman was awarded a music scholarship to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in 1937. Sadly, he dropped out after a year when his life changed forever.

It was in 1937, that Herman experienced a life-changing experience. It’s a story he tells many times throughout his life. He describes a bright light appearing around him and his body changing. “I could see through myself. And I went up … I wasn’t in human form … I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn. They teleported me. I was down on a stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop attending college because there was going to be great trouble in schools … the world was going into complete chaos … I would speak through music, and the world would listen. That’s what they told me.” For a deeply religious young man, this was disturbing and exciting. It certainly inspired Herman.

After his “trip to Saturn,” Herman dedicated himself to music. He devoted himself to music. So much so, that he hardly found time to sleep. All Herman did was practice and write songs. The first floor of his home was transformed into a musical workshop. That’s where he rehearsed with the musicians in his band. Away from music, Herman’s took to discussing religious matters. Mostly, though, music dominated Herman’s’s life.

So it’s no surprise that Herman decided to form a new band. He decided to reform The Sonny Blount Orchestra. It showcased the new Herman’s. He was a dedicated bandleader, who like his mentor John T. “Fess” Whatley, was a strict disciplinarian. Herman’s was determined his band would be the best in Birmingham. Seamlessly, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were able to change direction, and play an eclectic selection of music. Before long, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were one of most in-demand bands in Birmingham. Things were looking good for Herman. Then in 1942, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were no more. Herman was drafted.

On receiving his draft papers, Herman declared himself a conscientious objector. He cited not just religious objections to war and killing, but that he had to financially support his great-aunt Ida. Then there was the chronic hernia that blighted Herman’s’s life. The draft board rejected his appeal. Things got worse. His family were embarrassed by Herman’s’s refusal to fight. Some turned their back on him. Eventually, Herman’s was offered the opportunity to do Civilian Public Service. However, he failed to appear at the camp in Pennsylvania on December 8th 1942.

This resulted in Herman being arrested. When he was brought before the court, Herman debated points of law and the meaning of excerpts from the Bible. When this didn’t convince the judge Herman said he’d would use a military weapon to kill the first high-ranking military officer possible. This resulted in Herman being jailed. For Herman’s, this lead to one of the most disturbing periods in his life.

So bad was Herman’s experience in military prison that he had to write to the US Marshals Service in January 1943. By then, Herman felt he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He was suffering from stress and suicidal. There was also the constant fear that he’d be attacked. Luckily, the US Marshals Service looked favourably on his letter. 

By February 1943, Herman was allowed out during the day to work in the forests around Pennsylvania. At nights, he was able to play piano. A month later, Herman was reclassified and released from military prison.

Having left prison, Herman formed a new band. They played around the Birmingham area for the next two years. Then in 1945, when his Aunt Ida died, Herman’s left Birmingham. Next stop was Chicago.

Moving to Chicago, Herman’s quickly found work. He worked with Wynonie Harris and played on his two 1946 singles, Dig This Boogie and My Baby’s Barrelhouse. After that, Herman worked with Lil Green in some of Chicago’s strip clubs. Then in August 1946, Herman’s started working with Fletcher Henderson. However, Fletcher’s fortunes were fading.

Fletcher Henderson’s band was full of mediocre musicians. The main man, Fletcher Henderson, was often missing. He was still recovering after a car accident. So Fletcher needed someone to transform his band’s fortunes. This was where Herman’s came in. His role was arranger and pianist. Herman’s realising the band needed to change direction, decided to infuse Fletcher Henderson’s trademark sound with bebop. However, the band were resistant to change. So in 1948, Herman left Fletcher Henderson’s employ.

Next for Herman was forming a trio with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and violinist Stuff Smith. This trio didn’t last long and didn’t release any recordings. Not long after this, Herman would make his final appearance as a sideman on violinist’s Billy Bang’s Tribute to Stuff Smith. After this, Herman Poole Blount became Sun Ra.

Chicago was changing. It was home to a number of African-American political activists. A number of fringe movements sprung up. They were seeking political and religious change. Herman became involved. He was immersing himself in history. Especially, Egyptology. He was fascinated with the Chicago’s many ancient Egyptian-styled buildings and monuments. This resulted in Herman discovering George G.M. James’ The Stolen Legacy. Discovering this book was a life-changing experience.

In The Stolen Legacy, George G.M. James argues that classical Greek philosophy actually has its roots in Ancient Egypt. This resulted in Herman concluding that the history and accomplishments of Africans had been deliberately denied and suppressed by various European cultures. It was as if his eyes had been opened. For Herman, this was just the start of a number of changes in his life.

As 1952 dawned, Herman had formed a new band, The Space Trio. It featured saxophonist Pat Patrick and Tommy Hunter. At the time, they were two of the most talented musicians Herman knew. This allowed him to write even more compacted and complex songs. However, by October 1952, he wasn’t writing these songs as Herman Poole Blount. No. Sun Ra was born in October 1952.

Just like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, adopting the name Sun Ra was perceived by some as Herman choosing to dispense with his slave name. Instead, he named himself after the Egyptian God of the Sun, Sun Ra. Soon, this new identity would begin to evolve. 

Sun Ra’s complex persona and mythology evolved over a period of time. He saw himself as a pioneer of Afrofuturism, who was alien from Saturn. His mission on earth was to preach peace, and the medium he used to this, was music. This some felt, was a kind of rebirth for Sun Ra. It certainly was a musical rebirth.

After Pat Patrick got married, he moved to Florida. This left The Space Trio with a vacancy for a saxophonist. Tenor saxophonist, John Gilmore filled the void. Soon after, Marshall Allen an alto saxophonist joined. So did saxophonist James Spaulding, trombonist Julian Priester and briefly, tenor saxophonist Von Freeman came onboard. Another newcomer was Alton Abraham, who would become Sun Ra’s manager. He made up for Sun Ra’s shortcomings.

While he was a hugely talented bandleader, who demanded the highest standards, Sun Ra, like many musicians, was no businessman. With Alton Abraham onboard, Sun Ra could concentrate on music. Alton took care of business. This included setting up El Saturn Records, an independent record label, which would release many of Sun Ra’s records. However, El Saturn Records didn’t released Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s debut album, Jazz By Sun Ra.

Jazz By Sun Ra was released in 1956, on the short-lived Transition Records. However, Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s sophomore album Super Sonic Jazz was released in March 1956, on El Saturn Records.  For the next few years, El Saturn Records released most of Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s albums. El Saturn also released many of Sun Ra’s singles, including those that feature on Singles The Definitive 45s Collection.

Disc One.

A total of twenty-four tracks feature on disc one of Singles The Definitive 45s Collection. They cover several different aspects of Sun Ra’s early career. 

This includes several solo recitals recorded during the early fifties. I Am Strange and I Am An Instrument are cosmo dramas, where Sun Ra accompanies himself on piano as he delivers a sermon. They would become a regular feature of Arkestra shows from the seventies onwards. Sun Ra however, wouldn’t found his Arkestra until 1956. Before that, Sun Ra would work with various musicians.

Among them, were The Nu Sounds With Sun Ra. They recorded in Chicago between 1952 and 1962. This included A Foggy Day, which was recorded at Club Evergreen, Chicago, in 1954 or 1955. It featured on the flip side of Daddy’s Gonna Tell You No Lie, and was credited The Cosmic Rays with Sun Sun Ra.Another recording from The Nu Sounds With Sun Ra is the space bop single Chicago USA. It featured Spaceship Lullaby on the B-Side. These tracks find Sun Ra looking into the future, as his adopted hometown Chicago becomes some sort of Utopian modern city. However,  Chicago USA wasn’t released until 2005, some twelve years after Sun Ra’s death. 

By the spring 1956, Sun Ra was playing alongside Billie Hawkins. They were billed as Billie Hawkins with Sun Ra and His Orchestra. Later in 1956, I’m Coming Home was released as a singles, Last Call For Love on the flip side. Already.Sun Ra’s Orchestra was starting to take shape. 

They had already released one of their first singles. This was Soft Talk, which featured Super Blonde on the B-Side. It had been recorded during March 1956, at the Balkan Studios. When the single was released on Saturn, and was credited to Sun Ra and His Arkistra. However, when the followup was released, the Orchestra had dawned a new name.

For the first time, Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra featured on a single. This was Saturn which featured Call for All Demons on the flip-side. It had been recorded at RCA Studios, during May 1956 and was released on Saturn. So was the followup Demon’s Lullaby, which featured Super-sonic Jazz on the B-Side. It was released later in 1956.The final single Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra released on Saturn during 1956 was Medicine For A Nightmare, with Urnack on the flip-side. However, Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra wasn’t the only project Sun Ra was involved with.

Around 1957, a quartet lad by Sun Ra worked with Yochanan The Space Age Vocalist. They recorded the bluesy, but jazz-tinged single M Uck M Uck (Matt Matt), which featured Hot Skillet Mama on the B-Side. This was the first of several fruitful and memorable collaborations between Sun Ra and the leftfield R&B vocalist.

Late 1957, saw multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen join the Arkestra. He was capable of seamlessly switching between reed instruments, and would become of one of the Arkestra’s secret weapons. So would bassist Robbie Boykins. They were part of what’s regarded as the classic lineup of the Arkestra.

In mid-1958, Sun Ra was about to work on several projects. This included recording Sun Ra and The Cosmic Rays’ single Bye Bye, which featured Somebody’s In Love. It was released later in 1958 on Saturn. By then, Le Sun Ra and His Arkistra had recorded and released their single Hours After. Tucked away on the flip-side was a reinvention of Great Balls Of Fire. It’s just one of the tracks that signalled that Sun Ra and His Arkestra were about to hit a rich vein of form.

Between 1958 and 1959, Sun Ra and His Arkestra released two classic albums, The Nubians Of Plutonia and Jazz In Silhouette. Both albums featured the classic lineup of the Arkestra. However, very little is known about another recording that took place between 1956 and 1960.

This was The Qualities’ Christmas single, It’s Christmas Time. It featured Happy New Year to You! on the flip-side. There’s uncertainly as to who played on the single, and when it was recorded. That however, was the case with many of Sun Ra’s recordings. The lineup of his bands and Arkestra were constantly evolving. That was the case throughout his career.

Disc Two.

Rather than picking up where disc one picked off, disc two of  Singles The Definitive 45s Collection goes back in time to 1959. That’s when Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra recorded the single October. It was released eight years later, in 1967 with Adventure in Space on the B-Side. Both sides show Sun Ra and the Arkestra maturing as they create ambitious and innovative music. This were pioneers, who would influence a future generation of musicians.

There’s some debate when The Cosmic Rays with Sun Ra and Arkestra recorded the single Dreaming, and the B-Side Daddy’s Gonna Tell You No Lie. With details somewhat sketchy about the sessions, it’s thought that the two tracks were recorded in either 1955 or 1959. Regardless which date it was, these two track among the finest tracks The Cosmic Rays with Sun Ra recorded. Dreaming was released as a single on Saturn, and finds The Cosmic Rays with Sun Ra at their very best.

Another artist Sun Ra worked with, was vocalist Hattie Randolph. They recorded the single Round Midnight on 6th March 1959. Tucked away on the flip-side was the hidden gem Back In Your Own Back Yard. Round Midnight was released on Saturn later in 1959 as Hattie Randolph with Sun Ra and His Astro Infinty Arkestra. Hattie Randolph was just the latest artist to work with Sun Ra.

A years later, in 1960, Yochanan The Space Age Vocalist was reunited with Sun Ra and His Arkestra. They recorded the single Message to Earthman, with The Sun Man Speaks featuring on the B-Side. It was released on Saturn in 1961 as Yochanan The Space Age Vocalist with Sun Ra and His Arkestra. This was another fruitful collaboration. These two tracks were reissued in 1986, with The Sun Man Speaks becoming the single and Message to Earthman being relegated to the B-Side. By then, Sun Ra was one of the elder statesmen of jazz, and a prolific recording artist.

That had always been the case. Le Sun Ra and His Arkestra had recorded throughout the second half of the fifties. They recorded Saturn and Velvet during a session on 6th March 1959. This was the same session that Hattie Randolph recorded with Sun Ra and His Astro Infinty Arkestra. They’re on good form on Saturn which was meant to be released as a single. Alas, the single was never released, and these two joyous tracks where Le Sun Ra and His Arkestra stretch their legs, never found the audience they deserved. That’s a great shame, as the Arkestra’s classic lineup was established, and hd entered a fruitful period of their career.

This two classic albums, The Nubians Of Plutonia and Jazz In Silhouette were proof of this. On 14th June 1960, Sun Ra and His Arkestra entered the studio and recorded two singles that would be released later in 1960. The first was Space Loneliness, which featured State Street on the B-Side. It was followed up by The Blue Set, with Big City Blues on the flip-side. Both singles featured a tight septet, who began to explore new ways to playing. This they called “tone science,” and lead by Sun Ra, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Ronnie Boykins and Phil Cohran embarked upon a musical adventure. One of the earliest fruits of this adventure was the bluesy Magnus Opus, Space Loneliness. It’s one of the finest moment from a session that produced twenty tracks. However, a year after the sessions that produced Space Loneliness, Sun Ra and His Arkestra were on the move.

Sun Ra and His Arkestra decided to move from the Windy City to New York in 1961. Early in 1962, Sun Ra and His Arkestra headed to the Choreographers Workshop, where they were joined by Pat Patrick. They recorded the single A Blue One, Orbitration In Blue on the B-Side. It was released on Saturn in 1964. This was one of just six single released during the seven years Sun Ra and His Arkestra were based in New York. By then, the focus was much more on albums.

Another single recorded at the Choreographers Workshop, in New York, was Tell Her To Come On Home, It was recorded during 1962 and featured vocalist Little Mack Gordon. For the flip-side, I’m Making Believe was recorded. The single was then released on Saturn. However, another track recorded the Choreographers Workshop wasn’t released until much later.

This was Hell #1 (A.k.a. Out There a Minute). It was recorded between 1962-1964 at the Choreographers Workshop. However, the track lay unreleased un 1989, when it was released on E.P. given away with the New York based Chemical Imbalance magazine. This Sun Ra and his management hoped, would introduce his music to an even wider audience. By then, Sun Ra’s popularity had increased and his music was appreciated by a much wider audience.

Disc Three.

Disc three is the final disc in the Singles The Definitive 45s Collection box set. It picks up where disc two left off.

In 1967, Sun Ra and His Arkestra were recording at Sun Studios, New York City. They recorded the angle The Bridge, and its B-Side Rocket # 9. By then, Sun Ra had decided that lyrics were part of his ‘sound’. Often, he used these lyrics to pass on a social messages, or tell what be believed to the truth about a subject. Other times, the meaning of the message was so well hidden or complex that it passed most people by. These Sun Ra considered to be a message from Saturn. One of the singles to feature a ‘message’ is The Bridge, which nowadays, is a real rarity. It shows Sun Ra’s music continuing to evolve.

On 22nd September 1968, Sun Ra and His Arkestra returned to Sun Studios. They cut the single Blues On Planet Mars, with the hidden gem Saturn Moon relegated to the B-Side. Blues On Planet Mars was released as a single in 1969. Both tracks would feature on another of Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s classic album, Atlantis. It featured what Sun Ra dubbed his “solar sound instrument.” In reality, it was a Hohner Clavinet and would become an important component of his ‘sound’. Atlantis would be one of the final Sun Ra and His Arkestra recordings in New York for a while.

After seven years in the Big Apple, Sun Ra and His Arkestra moved to Philadelphia. Sun Ra’s House would become a makeshift studio, and where many recordings would be made. This included 

Sun Ra And His Astro-Solar-Infinity Arkestra single Journey To Saturn, which  featured on the B-Side Enlightenment. Both sides featured the vocal prowess of June Tyson. She had joined the Arkestra in 1968, and her role was to communicate Sun Ra’s message. The way she did this, was via space age songs, poetry recitals and the ritualistic echoing of Sun Ra’s message. June Tyson’s addition brought a new dimensions to Sun Ra And His Astro-Solar-Infinity Arkestra.

By the time Sun Ra And His Astro-Solar-Infinity Arkestra entered Variety Recording Studio, in New York, there was no sign of June Tyson. That day, The Perfect Man was recorded. It became the B-Side I’m Gonna Unmask The Batman, which was recorded at WXPN radio station, Philadelphia, 4th July 1974. Again, there was no sign of June Tyson, with Sam Bankhead adding the vocals. Later in 1974, the radio broadcast pf I’m Gonna Unmask The Batman was released on Saturn, and became the latest Sun Ra single. He was by then, one of the most prolific recording artists.

There was no sign of Sun Ra slowing up. Sun Ra And His Arkestra recorded the single Love In Outer Space during 1975. 

Where the track was recorded is unknown. However, the B-Side Mayan Temple was recorded at Variety Recording Studio, New York City, 27th June 1975. It presents Sun Ra’s philosophy for the future, and the this is delivered by Harlem poet David Henderson. His addition results in a beautiful and heartfelt version of Sun Ra’s utopian vision. Sadly, when Love In Outer Space was released, it as a limited edition and very few copies of the single exist. It’s a real rarity, and its addition on Singles The Definitive 45s Collection box set is a welcome one.

So is Sun Ra’s live version of the single Sky Blues. It was recorded live at at a solo concert at Teatro Ciak, Milan, on the 23rd of 1978. Later in 1978, Sky Blues was released as a single on Saturn, with Disco 2021 on the B-Side. Both sides show Sun Ra’s determination to ensure that his music continues to remain relevant. 

That was the case throughout Sun Ra’s career. In early May 1979, Sun Ra travelled to Montreal, Canada to play another concert with his Arkestra. Instead, he was accompanied by just a drummer. He features on Rough House Blues and Cosmo-Extensions, which are essentially captivating duets between Sun Ra’s synths and the drums. Later in 1979, Rough House Blues was released as a single by Saturn, with Cosmo-Extensions featuring on the flip-side. Both sides showed another side of Sun Ra, as he continues to innovate.

He had been innovating throughout his career. Especially with the Arkestra, which had changed its name several times. By the 8th of July 1977, it was billed as Sun Ra and His Outer Space Arkestra. They were due to feature on WKCR-FM, in New York City on 8th of July 1977. That day, they recorded Quest, would be released as a single five years later. On the flip-side was Outer Space Plateau, which was recorded at Sun Ra’s house in 1982. Later that year, Quest became Sun Ra and His Outer Space Arkestra latest single, as they move in a a new direction, constantly pushing music to its limits and way beyond. 

In September 1982, Sun Ra and His Arkestra headed to  Variety Recording Studio, New York City to record a single for Columbia. They recorded the two tracks that became their latest single, Nuclear War and the B-Side, Sometimes I’m Happy. It features June Tyson, whose vocal plays an important part in the sound and success of the song. Sun Ra and His Arkestra had recorded two of their best songs of recent years.

Nuclear War was a single that could’ve crossed over. With its call and response style, it was catchy and one of Sun Ra’s most commercial singles. It was pressed on 45, but as a 12 inch single This should’ve introduce his music to a much wider audience, including DJs. However, when Sun Ra delivered the single to Columbia there was a problem. The repeated use of the oath MF proved problematic. There was no way Nuclear War would get radio play. Sun Ra was shown the door, and his time at Columbia was over.

After the controversy of Nuclear War, Sun Ra and His Arkestra returned to playing live and recording. They records On Jupiter during a live performance in Philly during 1978. This track wasn’t released until 2014, when it featured on the Norton Records’ single Sun Ra Centennial 1914-2014. On the flip-side was Cosmo Drama (Prophetika 2), which was recorded in New York in 1979. Both sides are a tantalising taste of Sun Ra and His Arkestra live during the late-seventies.

The final in disc three of Singles The Definitive 45s Collection, is I Am An Instrument. It was recorded at Sun Ra’s home in 1991. By then, he was recovering from a stroke he had suffered in 1990. Despite this, Sun Ra courageously continued his career, and delivered a recitation whilst accompanying himself on thrash harp and toy piano. Sadly, I Am An Instrument wasn’t released until it was released in conduction with the May 1994 edition of The Wire Magazine. Sadly, by then, Sun Ra had passed away a year earlier.

On May 30th 1993, Sun Ra passed away aged seventy-nine. That day, music lost a true visionary. He had spent the last six decades releasing groundbreaking music. Constantly, Sun Ra pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes way beyond on the 125 albums he recorded. That’s not forgetting the countless singles that Sun Ra released. A tantalising taste of these singles feature on the Singles The Definitive 45s Collection box set, which was recently released by Strutb Records. This is a lovingly curated compilation that will appeal to veterans of Sun Ra albums, and newcomers to his music. Sun Ra was one of most enigmatic and innovative musicians of the 20th Century. That’s no exaggeration.

Many artists are described as innovative. However, very few really are. Sun Ra is one of the exceptions. From the moment he dawned the role of Sun Ra, his music was transformed. It became much more complex. This was only possible because Sun Ra found liked minded musicians. Among them were Pat Patrick, Tommy Hunter, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, James Spaulding, Julian Priester and Art Yard. They became Sun Ra’s legendary Arkestra.

For nearly forty years, Sun Ra and His Arkestra pushed musical boundaries. Sun Ra was a perfectionist and relentless taskmaster. With some of most talented, inventive and adventurous musicians of their generation, Sun Ra set about honing the Arkestra’s sound. He was demanding and exacting standards. Second best was no use to Sun Ra. What he was after was an Arkestra who were innovators and musical adventurers.

Sun Ra was never content to stand still musically. Similarly, he was always striving to reinvent his music. The original version of a song was merely the starting point. What it became, was anyone’s guess? Sun Ra was forever determined to innovate. When he reinvented a track, he took the music in the most unexpected direction. He combined Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz. This innovative fusion transformed the career of the man born Herman Poole Blount.

Eventually, Sun Ra became a giant of jazz. This took time, patience and dedication. He had come a long way since his early days in Birmingham, Alabama. Sadly, very little is known about Sun Ra’s early year. This just adds to the man many called Mr. Mystery.

So does his alleged ‘trip’ to Saturn, which changed Sun Ra’s life forevermore. Thereafter, Sun Ra became added philosopher to his C.V. However, it was music which made Sun Ra famous. 

That music is celebrated on Singles The Definitive 45s Collection box set, where Sun Ra combines Egyptian history with space-age cosmic philosophy and freeform jazz. Sun Ra was more than a musician, bandleader, composer. He was also a cosmic philosopher, writer and poet. Despite his many talented, Sun Ra is best remembered for the music he produced over a career spanning six decades. The music Sun Ra wrote and recorded was innovative, inventive and influential, and is why nowadays, he is regarded as one of the most important figures in jazz. 

SUN RA- SINGLES THE DEFINITIVE 45s COLLECTION.

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