SUN RA — Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra : Secrets of the Sun (review)

SUN RA — Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra : Secrets of the Sun album cover Album · 1965 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
It is so nice that you can go in record stores now and get classic Sun Ra records in brand new condition. “Secrets of the Sun” originally came out in 1965, but it has been recently re-issued and is available at better record stores today. The cover credits this album to Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra, but actually this is one of those Sun Ra small group albums, which are often special and unique. If you are familiar with “Angels and Demons at Play” and “Night of the Purple Moon”, then you are familiar with some of Sonny’s small group albums, but unfortunately, “Secrets” is not quite as good as those two masterpieces, but its not bad either. Like all 60s Sun Ra albums, the recording quality is not great, the piano is out of tune, and the mixing is just bizarre, but all these things are standard trademarks of classic Sun Ra.

The first two tracks on side one feature somewhat laid back semi-free jazz played over vague rhythmic ostinatos, with performers wandering in and out of the mix. Ahrt Jnkens (possible fake name) plays the ‘space voice’, which sounds like someone vocalizing through a horn and changing the sound with a plunger. It sounds like Ellington’s horns on acid and downers. It’s a little bit annoying but seems to fit in with the vibe okay. Closing track, “Space Aura”, is the closest thing to a real jazz song on here as the combo hits an off-kilter hard bop groove while Pat Patrick, John Gilmore and Marshall Allen turn in solos.

Moving on to side two, on “Love in Outer Space”, Marshall Allen solos on the ’morrow’, which sounds a lot like a bass clarinet, while accompanied by somewhat faint and distant percussion. “Reflects Motion” is the closest track to sounding like classic 60s free jazz, with John Gilmore and crew sounding similar to what Archie Shepp was doing during this time period, but of course it was Archie who learned all this from John in the first place. This track has a bizarre opening as Gilmore and Marshall Allen play a fast and lengthy unison line that sounds like a cross between be-bop and an atonal tone-row concoction. Throughout this album Sun Ra focuses his piano solos on playing dense block chords in interesting rhythmic juxtapositions. It is somewhat similar to things Dave Brubeck would try, but Dave sounds so square and forced compared to what comes to Sonny with ease. “Secrets” is a good album for Ra fans, its just unique enough to add another facet to the Sun Ra legacy. it’s an interesting album, but not a great one.
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