Saturn's best jazz musician and Earth's smartest out-of-space citizen, Sun Ra released an endless slew of records with his various Arkestra incarnations, changing the face of his genre over and over by going down experimental and cosmic avenues and using maddening concepts. 'In The Orbit Of Ra' is a birthday gift to the musician who would have turned a hundred if he'd lived to see it. It's more than just a best of collection, also unearthing unreleased tracks -- both live and studio -- that will be new to even the most avid Sun Ra fan. 'In The Orbit of Ra' is affectionately curated by Marshall Allen, a close companion of the jazz icon and frequently his saxophonist.
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One of the questions that has plagued music fans for many years is "Where do I start with Sun Ra"? With more than a hundred albums under his belt and no official introductory compilation available until now, the enigmatic space-jazz genius's back catalogue seems like an uncrackable code to those without many hours of listening time to commit. That's why it's exciting that Strut and Art Yard have teamed up with Arkestra legend (and current bandleader) Marshall Allen to compile this 20-track collection to celebrate what would have been the great man's 100th birthday.
As well as classics like 'Somewhere In Space', 'Astro Black', 'Rocket Number Nine Take Off For Planet Venus' and 'Planet Earth', there's even a couple of treats for the die-hards here - an unreleased 10-minute version of 'Island In The Sun' and previously-unheard takes of 'Trying To Put The Blame On Me' and 'Reflects Motion (Part 1)'. The collection runs the gamut of Ra's various eras, from spacey spirituality to spontaneously percussive mystical shuffles, celestial blues and energetic vocal-led jazz. As you'd expect with a central member of the Arkestra at the helm, every track is a killer and listening to the album as a whole it's easy to see why Sun Ra achieved the lasting adoration he did. If you're fascinated by Saturn's finest but have never been able to find an easy way into his intimidating oeuvre, here's your chance!
9/10 Azza Customer review, 21st October 2014
A superb 'primer' for those who always wanted to know about Sun Ra but were afraid to ask! The Strut label are quickly rising to the top of groovy UK reissue labels, in fact I think with recent releases may even be surpassing the Soul Jazz label for groove based reissues that don't lurch into crap acid jazz and lame funk territory..
While the compilation doesn't really give you Mr.Ra's more 'out' or 'experimental' stuff like on 'concert for comet kahoutek' for instance, you get a good sampler of Mr.Ra's trippy cocktail bop and some of his 70s era electro-jazz grooves, with the 'groove' element being the general vibe for this release. Highest recommendation.
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