Jazz’s most forward thinking maverick would have been 100 today
Happy Birthday Sun Ra! You would have been 100 today if you hadn’t of died aged 79 in 1993. Sun Ra (AKA Herman Poole Blount AKA Le Sony’r Ra) was one of the most experimental, forward thinking, controversial, amazing and crazy jazz musicians, scratch that, musicians ever.
Ra’s music (like his life) was colourful, chaotic, poignant and unorthodox. Claiming that he was from Saturn (rather than the Earth like the rest of us) he channelled Sci-Fi influences in his work (1968’s Outer Spaceway Incorporated and 1972’s Space is the Place are two of the finest examples of this). These albums fit perfectly into his Afrofuturism views (he was one of the first to start pushing this on the mainstream). The music was a mixture of Bop, but with a modal twist. Even now they are ground breaking and haven’t lost any of the magic.
Today Ra’s influence can be felt throughout music. One artist who channels Ra more than any others is Ras G. Musically they aren’t that similar, but once you get beneath the surface of Ras G’s music you can’t help notice the similarities. Ras G’s last album Back on the Planet is a massive homage to Ra (from the cover to the Afrofuturistic themes). In a recent interview he said (when asked what his first impressions of Ra’s music were) “I never heard a record like it before, it was spiritual, bluesy, and cosmic all at the same time. It made me go back and buy more Sun Ra”. Ras G’s reaction isn’t a one off. After you have listened to Ra’s music (and got it) there is no turning back and you want to hear more and more.
I’m going to sign off now as it’s late in the morning and these Sun Ra records aren’t going to play themselves. If you’ve never experienced a Sun Ra track before, why not today (on the 100th anniversary of his birth) to give it a go.
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