Haverford College, Jan. 25, 1980 (Solo Rhodes Piano)
Sun Ra has become shorthand for a kind of controlled chaos – exploratory in the extreme. Herman Poole Blount – aka Le Sony’r Ra or “Sun Ra” was a person, but Sun Ra wasn’t just a musician, Sun Ra was a kind of music. A concept. The concept, the shorthand, lives on. Sun Ra’s Arkestra – the ensemble with a fluid and evolving line-up – is still out there in some version now. And is still out there as a touchstone for so many other players. The music – forever – out there!
But there were many versions of Sun Ra and they held several surprises.
This is the first official release of this solo gig from 1980 – though it’s been doing the bootleg rounds for collectors for years. I first heard it (with very crummy sound) a decade or so ago but to hear it now is to listen anew.
Solo at the Rhodes, playing a mix of his well-known originals – Space Is The Place – and some evergreen covers (Rhapsody In Blue) with improvisatory pieces to springboard to (Haverford Impromptu # 2) or from (Haverford Impromptu # 1). And just Sun Ra the keyboard, he is basically playing a wine glass xylophone as his celestial runs dominate the opener, Love In Outer Space. It’s both glorious and deeply subdued. It’s all relative. This is Sun Ra not really being “out there” at all. Where other forms of his music felt sometimes like the purge, this is a deep soul cleanse, this is rolling and soulful always (St. Louis Blues) and shows the deep connection to music; that might seem obvious to say but it won’t seem as obvious when you listen – more what I mean is how his own pieces connect to and from the hallways and hallmarks within music. The medley that sees his own Space Is The Place segue into Over The Rainbow is probably the best aural example of this.
It’s a beautiful and intriguing listen from a man and musician that. over a quarter century on from leaving this planet (presumably to return “Home”) continues to surprise, to baffle, to influence and inspire.
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