I have a large cd and Lp collection featuring many of Jazz's hip elite and pioneering luminaries names including Coltrane, Monk, Gillespie, Coleman, Taylor, Davis not to mention a whole host more.
One such name however which has always fascinated me was Sun Ra, even during my early teenage voyages into late 60s American Punk Rock music a'la The Stooges and MC5 alongside my vested enjoyment of Experimental Avant Garde music, the name Sun Ra always seemed to pop up and be sited as an influence and this in turn made me investigate the man and the music behind the name Sun Ra.
Born as Herman Poole Blount in 1914, Sun Ra and the life which would entail until his death in 1993 would consist of embracing and absorbing music as fully as a person can whilst at the same time living life as an outsider and virtual unknown for much of his life. Sun Ra is the only musician I know of who lived life completely in servitude to his craft and passion, this passion was his music. Sun Ra lived, breathed and walked music and possibly is one of the most intense and passionate artists of the 20th century.
Adopting the name and persona Sun Ra after studying Mysticism and having a life changing experience during his twenties, this is where Sun Ra's legacy begins.
A competent musician since his childhood, one could claim Sun Ra to have been a prodigé , During his teens and early twenties Sun Ra played in a number of jazz bands and groups.
The Story of Sun Ra is an interesting one and there is a wealth of media to explain about the man's life and music.
The discography of Sun Ra is something to behold, it is probably the largest back catalogue any one musician could ever have, proving that Sun Ra was for much of his life completely living his existence for the purpose of and for music.
I have a few Sun Ra LP's myself, however these are never really cheap and not at all common or easy to find (even online)... However once you've purchase one Sun Ra album you kind of want to own them all because they usually come adorned with beautiful sleeve designs and look amazing. The music on the records are amazing too, a strange form of Jazz like no other before or even after it, compared to other Jazz musicians of the time, none were anywhere in the same realm of Sun Ra and this is why Sun Ra himself is often not given as much credit as being an influence to music in comparison to his contemporaries who seemed to know how to 'play the game' a little better than he did.
Sadly he was also considered somewhat of an outsider in Jazz circles too, yet he remained true to his cause and beliefs and produced some of the most dazzling and way-out Jazz recordings ever released and I feel some of the most interesting pieces of music during the 20th century.
My first ever Sun Ra Lp was the one in which this post is honoured, 'Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra Visits Planet Earth', the record was released in 1966 and released on Sun Ra's own label 'Saturn Records'. The LP is split in two. Side 1 (of the vinyl) features cuts of tracks which were originally intended to be released on the 'Sounds Of Joy' album recorded in 1956 (which still wasn't released when this LP came out ironically) and Side 2 (of the vinyl) features various cuts by Sun Ra and his Arkestra in 1958.
Below are a few tracks which I really love from this album.
Planet Earth (this is my favourite, possibly of all Sun Ra material)
Please if you like the sound clips above, buy the record and also try and find more of Sun Ra's releases, he has been consistently good creating fantastic music in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even during his last years in the 90s.