Sun Ra

Anon La Ply

This is a follow-up from the jazz cats thread.

I've been catching up on great old jazz acts of late. Sun Ra is my favourite so far. What an amazing character - he created his own universe and took others with him (and still does via the web).

In many ways he reminds me of Frank Zappa ...

- stellar talent
- musically fearless
- music doesn't fit any category
- composed, arranged and conducted for ever-changing big bands
- wrote and performed obsessively (eg. 16 hrs a day, daily)
- massive recorded output that included a lot of shoestring budget productions
- strict drug-free regimens for band members ... while playing the trippiest music imaginable
- personality traits that in others would be considered madness but they made it work through force of conviction and sense of fun (ditto Beefheart here)
- great and distinctive drum parts.
- way ahead of their time
- both seemed to be laughably obsessed with being right and telling others that they were wrong.

Some Sun tunes I've enjoyed:

This one was still contemporary:

I especially love this tune:

Just thought I'd give some props to a musician who doesn't always seem to be given his dues.


Platinum Member
I'm a big fan. Ra was a real character, as you've discovered. What many people don't know is that he was capable of leading a very straight-ahead big band as well as the more celestial endeavors he was know for. Witness the Jazz In Silhouette record, just an absolute classic.


Anthony Amodeo

Ra is one of the greatest for sure

a bit out of his mind.....but all the greats are


An innovator for sure. Not always my thing, but some stuff is really interesting. As is the case with steeping outside the box at times it seems to be "out there for the sake of being out there," but when it works it's great.

I feel the same about Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton Ornette Coleman and even some abstract artists. When you disregard the rules and take big chances sometimes you make big messes. But then...when it's can be sublime.

We all need to do that to some degree. We all take different routes. Some take routes never before explored.

Anon La Ply

Yeah Larry, I've heard Enlightenment - he didn't play wacky because he couldn't do anything else. The bios say he got a lot from his stint with Fletcher Henderson, but he wanted to try new things all the time - one of those people who learnt the rules and then broke them.

Personally, I prefer his way out stuff but his straight ahead has a great mix of mellowness and edge.

Anthony, was Elvin out of mind too? Feel free to say "no comment", we'll understand :)

Nelson - about "being out there for the sake of being out there" - I think it's a matter of throwing the cards up and see what happens. True that about experimenters - not only does the CQ vary more than usual, they are so diverse that some tunes are bound to disappoint at least some fans of their other work.


Platinum Member
Good stuff!

I remembering seeing Sun Ra at Alvin's in Detroit (I think it was 1992?) and it was phenomenal. Cat came out in a wheelchair and then he and the Arkestra proceeded to transport the room. It was really something and I feel lucky to have experienced that before he passed.


Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I'm discovering here... so it's too early for me to really comment, but...

... Nuclear War, wow, I loved that piece.

... Ancient Aethiopia, the first part is very Tull-esque, is Ian Anderson playing? very good second part too, you can tell, if I don't close the link and keep listening is normally a good sign... :)

... Pink Elephant, nah....not my thing.

Grea, first link not available were I live :(


Senior Member
I like the comparison with Zappa, very astute (although obviously they were mostly very different in musical styles).

I remember seeing a cool documentary about Sun Ra in the late 80s...probably out there on the net somewhere (virtual pack of custard creams goes to the first link finder).


Platinum Member
For sure brother, for sure.

I live on the West side of the state now. Is Alvin's still there?
It made a nice comeback a few years ago and I thought it was open but now it appears to have closed. Hopefully, someone will come in and try to bring it back again.