‘Fate in a Pleasant Mood’
Another one of Sun Ra’s more big-band numbers, with traditional horn voicings that bend just a little oblong. Imagine that it’s 1:49 a.m., the supper club’s about to close, and the couples on the dance floor are just as sleepy as the band. (A 1985 version is more upbeat — and out there.)
Recorded in 1960, this shows the shape of Sun Ra’s music to come. Unusual instruments, rhythm and atmosphere over melody, and a repeating chant. In later live performances, this pivotal track would get a full workout.
Issued in 1967, Strange Strings is the result of Sun Ra giving his band instruments they did not know how to play, rolling tape, and seeing what would happen. Echo effects and a giant pane of sheet metal round out the wild, improvised piece.
‘Space Is the Place’
Sun Ra’s signature song, used in the 1974 film of the same name (filmed in Oakland), also contains his defining ethos: “There is no limit to the things that you can do.” At Sun Ra’s funeral, mourners sang this song on the way out of the church, the melodic lines overlapping with one another to create a vision of infinity.
The Sun Ra Arkestra performs July 20–23 at SFJAZZ in San Francisco. Details here.