Angels & Demons / Nubians of Plutonia
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Sun Ra has made a huge number of recordings with his Arkestra... His albums range from adventurous to downright insane. This particular album and the other one I mentioned contain a very pleasing balance of all the things that make Sun Ra so much fun: the big band, the swing, the rumba, the wild orchestrations and rhythms, the improvisations, and the overall "interplanetary funksmanship" of which George Clinton once sang.
My first Sun Ra album was actually a wild one: "Other Planes of There." I really like it, along with another adventurous title "Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy/Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow." There are a number of these wilder examples of free jazz in his catalogue, and there are also more conventional albums.
My recommendation is to begin with the more conventional albums, because they offer plenty of fun insanity to begin with. "Angels & Demons at Play/The Nubians of Plutonia" is a particular favorite of mine. If you can get a hold of a copy, check it out!
"Nubians" is a heavily percussive LP that influenced Coltrane among others. The recording quality on it varies from good to so-so. There are some wonderful compositions on it and many lengthy moments of drum-fueled ambience - "global trance" - that sound contemporary today, and were extraordinary for the late 1950's.
As, it seems, with many of Sun Ra's cds released by Evidence, this cd combines two LPs. The first, Angels and Demons at Play, combines some really haunting piano by Sun Ra with some incredible saxophone solos by John Gilmore. There are a lot of spots in which the band plays together as a unit or plays a series of alternating lines in response to one another. The harmonies and general playing of the band simultaneously convey an odd sense of spookiness with a feeling of real excitement about the music. Considering the primitive equipment on which this was recorded, the sound is very good.
The Nubians of Plutonia combines, as the title suggests, complex African rhythms with the spacey melodies characterisitc of the Arkestra. Though the recording quality dulls the drumming somewhat (it is better on some tunes than others), the rhythms drive the other players to creative heights that exceed those on Angels and Demons, creating an unexpected combination of earthiness and spaceyness. As a newbie to Ra, this album--which is not nearly as free or dissonant as a lot of his other music--is highly recommended, especially to those who are already jazz fans and in search of new and creative sounds.
Side 2 deals with material from 1956 & this also is rather advanced for it's time. It is what would be called "hard bop" for it's time, hinting at the experimental things that were to come. You could think of it almost in a crude way as "Duke Ellington on acid", although Ra likely never indulged in such substances, but the illustration is still apt. Listen to "Urnack" written by trombonist Julian Priester for an example- although the melodies still (somewhat) conform to traditional harmony, their onstruction is rather winding & abstract & the tempos are past what would qualify as 'dance music'.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A must-own for Sun Ra fans, if only for the studio recording of Watusa alone. Marshall Allen is featured heavily on this one and shines.Published 22 months ago by Matthew Watters
This is great music. I bought this CD after hearing an NPR blurb on Sun Ra and his music, during which they played an exerpt of Aithiopia, which really got my attention. Read morePublished on June 15, 2001
The songs are very well represented by the title of these two LP recordings. It is strange and exciting, but not far out in space. Read morePublished on August 28, 2000 by macfawlty
This was one of my first intros to Mr. Ra and in retrospect, it was likely the best place to start. Spacey, swinging, primal, great vocal chanting, dark, brooding, lively: this... Read morePublished on January 18, 2000 by Mr. Mark
This release covers various sessions from the late 50's and 1960 and shows the Arkestra in transition from their strange version of swing to the even stranger sound explorations of... Read morePublished on December 29, 1999