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Friday, December 31, 2004

BBC > Jazz giant Artie Shaw dies at 94

One of the most famous American band leaders of the swing era, the clarinettist Artie Shaw, has died.
He died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 94.
His 1938 recording of the Cole Porter tune Begin the Beguine helped make him one of the most famous and highly-paid musicians in the US at the time.
A self-declared perfectionist, Shaw was married eight times. His wives included Hollywood actresses Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Evelyn Keyes.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go /pr/fr/-/2/hi /entertainment/4136505 .stm




Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Investors.com > World-Class New York City Jazz Performance Center Turns Up the Volume with LightPointe Optical Wireless Solutions

2004 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- LightPointe, a designer and manufacturer of optical wireless products based on free-space optics (FSO) technology, today announced that Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City has deployed LightPointe's optical wireless bridge to extend high-speed connectivity to the organization's newly opened Frederick P. Rose Hall.

Under the leadership of artistic director and renowned jazz musician and composer Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center is the largest not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to jazz. The $128 million, 100,000 square foot Frederick P. Rose Hall opened in midtown Manhattan in October to support the continued development of jazz music through a year-round schedule of education, performance and broadcast events.

In completing the new building, Jazz at Lincoln Center executives sought a solution to extend the reach of an existing 100 Mbps network from its administrative offices, located across the street from the performance facility. While they needed high-speed bandwidth to ensure access to the organization's ticketing software, custom databases and email, they eliminated the possibility of deploying fiber-optic cable because of rights-of-way challenges and time delays. Microwave radio technology also was ruled out due to spectrum licensing and liability concerns. Jazz at Lincoln Center's service provider, a tier-one provider in Manhattan, then recommended LightPointe's FlightLite(TM) Gigabit Ethernet optical wireless bridge, a high-capacity, license-free solution that uses beams of light to transmit voice, data and video through the air-without any of the installation challenges of fiber or microwave.

Fred Murphy, associate director of information technology for Jazz at Lincoln Center, calls FlightLite the most reliable part of his entire network. "The FlightLite has performed flawlessly during our inaugural events at Rose Hall this fall," Murphy said. "Without LightPointe, I don't know how we'd be able to provide Ethernet-class connectivity to our staff at the new facility. We had ruled out all other options, including T1 lines, which at 1.5 Mbps, simply didn't provide the bandwidth we need to operate a world-class business," he added.

Through the FlightLite optical wireless bridge, staffers at the new performance hall gain seamless access to business-critical enterprise applications, including Microsoft Exchange Server, a Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone system, Patron Edge ticketing software and ArtsVision database. In addition to providing necessary connectivity, the LightPointe installation is projected to produce a return on investment in approximately three years.

Bob Preston, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for LightPointe, said Jazz at Lincoln Center's selection of LightPointe is indicative of a growing trend in enterprise connectivity. "More and more companies are turning to optical wireless to extend the reach of their high- performance networks across campus environments," he said. "Where T1 links or 802.11 solutions once sufficed, today there is an increased demand for high- speed data, voice and video transport. Optical wireless meets this challenge while also providing robust security, economical price-per-bit and ease of installation."

To date, LightPointe has sold more than 2,500 optical wireless bridges in more than 60 countries to leading enterprises and mobile wireless service providers. In addition to the best-selling FlightLite line, LightPointe offers the FlightSpectrum(TM) with fixed four-beam operation; FlightStrata(TM), the flagship product with advanced multi-beam tracking, optical beam shaping and speeds up to 1.25 Gbps; and the FlightApex(TM), the highest-capacity optical wireless product on the market with multi-beam technology and connectivity speeds up to 2.5 Gbps.

About Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center is a not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to jazz. With the world-renowned Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and a comprehensive array of guest artists, Jazz at Lincoln Center advances a unique vision for the continued development of the art of jazz. Its productions include concerts, national and international tours, residencies, weekly national radio and television programs, recordings, publications, an annual high school jazz band competition and festival, a band director academy, a jazz appreciation curriculum for children, advanced training through the Julliard Institute for Jazz Studies, music publishing, children's concerts, lectures, adult education courses, film programs, and student and educator workshops. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis, President & CEO Hughlyn F. Fierce, Executive Director Derek E. Gordon, Chairman of the Board Lisa Schiff and Jazz at Lincoln Center Board and staff, Jazz at Lincoln Center will produce hundreds of events during its 2004-05 season. This is the inaugural season in Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home -- Frederick P. Rose Hall -- the first-ever performance, education, and broadcast facility devoted to jazz.

About LightPointe

LightPointe designs and manufactures high-speed optical wireless products based on free-space optics (FSO) technology for cost-effective bridging in enterprise and carrier networks. LightPointe products have been deployed in more than 60 countries, and the company is recognized worldwide for the highest standards of quality and service. To learn more, please visit www.lightpointe.com.

SOURCE LightPointe

Jeff Bean of LightPointe, +1-858-643-5319, or
jbean@lightpointe.com, or Sue Hetzel of HetzelMeade Communications,
+1-760-434-9927, or sue@hetzelmeade.com



http://www.lightpointe.com



Saturday, November 20, 2004

Big News.Com > Judge dismisses musician's claim over use of his name

Friday November 19, 2004
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) A federal judge Friday dismissed a lawsuit by a 69-year-old jazz musician from Yarmouth against a Japanese company whose chain of clothing stores bears his name.
The ruling was the latest legal setback for Cecil McBee, a Grammy-winning bass player who has spent nine years and several hundred thousand dollars on court battles in Japan and Maine.
McBee claimed that Delica Inc., owner of the chain of some three dozen stores in Japan that sell trendy clothing to teenage girls, took his name without permission.
The company said it was sheer coincidence that its boutiques and the musician shared the same name. In court papers, Delica suggested that it chose the name for its pleasant sound.
McBee's lawsuit sought to force the chain to either stop using his name or to provide him with compensation. His lawyer had suggested a formula based on a percentage of sales, which amount to roughly $100 million a year.
Rejecting the recommendation of a magistrate judge, U.S. District Judge Gene Carter concluded that the court lacks jurisdiction in the case because any damage awards would conflict with Japanese trademark law.
McBee's lawyer, Robert Newton, said he anticipates an appeal.
Newton said McBee was ``quite disappointed, but he's a strong individual and we've always recognized that this case was difficult.''
``We stayed true to the belief that because of the globalization of the marketplace, there has to be a venue somewhere in which this man can get justice,'' the lawyer said.
Todd Holbrook, who represented Delica, said his client will be pleased to learn that its long legal battle has been won. ``It's justice delayed, but it's justice nonetheless,'' he said.
During his 40-year career, McBee has toured globally and performed with such jazz greats as Benny Goodman and Miles Davis. He received his Grammy in 1989 for his contribution to ``Blues for John Coltrane.''
From: http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/redir.php?jid=43b2b79e5fcf16ff&cat=f8c1fc641c28ce0a



Thursday, November 18, 2004


Rapper Nas with his father Jazz and Blues Musician Olu Dara Posted by Hello

Big News > Newsweek > Olu Dara raps about son Nas

Olu Dara raps about son Nas

Hip-hop Poppa
Nas’s new single subverts the hip-hop fatherhood paradigm—with a little help from his dad, Olu Dara
WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Brian Braiker
Newsweek
Updated: 3:59 p.m. ET Nov. 16, 2004Nov. 16 - Rap megastar Nas has described his style as “bold, daring, brave and honest.” His double album “Street Prophet” won’t come out till later this month, but fans have already gotten a taste of his lyrical derring-do on “Bridging the Gap,” the record’s first single: “Yeah daddy,” he shouts out to his father, “love you, boy.”

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The song is a collaboration with—and mini-paean to—his old man, jazz and blues musician Olu Dara. “My pop told me be your own boss/keep integrity at every cost,” he rhymes. Dara returns the favor by singing “I told him as a youngster he’ll be the greatest man alive.” The song, aside from its hackneyed Muddy Waters sample, is fun, raucous and in a similar vein to Nas’s 2003 single “I Can” (“B-Boys and girls, listen up/You can be anything in the world, in God we trust/An architect, doctor, maybe an actress/But nothing comes easy/ it takes much practice”).

Dara, who plays cornet and sings on the new single, has worked with his son before, notably on Nas’s breakthrough classic “Illmatic.” A New York jazz fixture in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Dara says he was constantly bringing Nas to shows and showing him around the studio. The two, he says, were inseparable and he never saw it as anything but natural. But, for better or worse, the tight father-son bond is an anomaly in rap, which—when it does broach the topic—portrays fathers as deadbeat baby-daddies.

Dara, whose own albums include the soulful roots gumbo of “In the World: From Natchez to New York” and “Neighborhoods,” recently spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker about the message behind his son’s new single, his own take on rap in general and what he thought of controversial comments made earlier this year by comedian Bill Cosby. Excerpts:


This isn’t the first time you guys have worked together.
I was on one song on his first album, “Illmatic.” I was on the song “Life is a Bitch.” He asked me to come and rap, but I didn’t want to be the oldest rapper in the world. So I opted to play a little on one song. The next time we played together was on my first album, where he does some spoken word. And on his album “God’s Son” I played some. We made music together when he was young in the house. So it’s like doing it the way we used to do it in the house—that’s how easy it feels.

Are you working on anything yourself?
When this settles down, I’ll go back into the studio.

You do some theater, too.
In a couple weeks I’m going down to George Mason University to put up a play with Diane McIntyre about the anniversary of Brown v. [Board of Education]. Usually I would be in it, but I don’t have time. I am going to go down there and compose the music and musically direct it. I’m busy working with my band too. We just left New Orleans.

Do you see this single as a message song or just a celebration of your own relationship?
Initially, I just thought about it as a relationship between father and son. It wasn’t anything unusual for me. But I’m finding out it’s kind of an anomaly to most people in the world. Why? I don’t know. Maybe fathers and sons are not as close as I thought they were. So maybe it is a wholesome message since people think it’s unusual.

It must be fun to do this with him.
We always did. He and I have never had a minor dispute. I may have had to chastise him when he was 7 years old. But our relationship has been very healthy throughout, from the beginning. In hindsight, I remember getting comments from the women in the neighborhood saying how special it was to see a man with his son walking around every day. I think that’s really when I started realizing that it’s an unusual sight to see. I find that with most men of all races it’s hard to see fathers and sons [together].

What’s your take on Bill Cosby’s comments about raising kids in the black community when he railed against “the young males who become fathers and [are] not held responsible, the young women having children and moving back in with their mothers and grandmothers?"
Well, he’s in the ivory tower. A lot of times you see wealthy people who escape the hard life of the ghetto, they become separated from that. He’s basically detached, which is why he can make those statements. He’s been away from that kind of thing for a long time. Only a detached person would have nerve enough to say anything like that. That’s just my own take.

Do you think the way you raised Nas encouraged him to do the positive songs like this and “I Can?”
That song [came out of] an overt conversation about 10 or 12 years ago with his grandmother, my mother, who told him to make sure that before he finished his career that he would make a song for kids. That’s the one thing he would have to do to really make a dent in the family, get appreciation from the family.

You’re a jazz and blues man. Do you listen to rap?
Oh sure, I knew a lot of the rappers during the embryonic stages of hip-hop in New York, Queens and places like that. I watched them get it rolling before it was popular. I love to dance, so rap attracted me first because of the way they use the music. I like the medium tempos they use. You listen to something like “Lean Back” by Fat Joe and if you dissect his song you hear European classical violins, you hear indigenous sounds in the back, you hear the blues beat. They actually mix four or five different genres on one song.

What about the harshness or violence of some of the more outré lyrics?
If you’re older, like me, you’ve heard it [before]. Those lyrics are not going to surprise you

So it doesn’t bother you to hear some of your son’s tougher lyrics when they come out of his own mouth?
Look, I’ve been to movies that are deeper than that. I can go and watch “Godfather” I, II and III and not only hear it but see it. I can see blood and guts, you know? It’s only something that gets people talking about it because it’s from the young black culture. One guy who interviewed me said “I don’t like gangsta rap; I don’t like what they’re saying.” And yet he was a fan of “Halloween” I, II and III. He liked Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. He didn’t mind the scene in the Godfather when they messed up the man’s daughter-in-law. But people have a way of singling out hip-hop. One day I’m going to write something about the psychology of the criticism of hip-hop.

And you can vouch for how true-to-life the lyrics are that pertain to Nas’s childhood in songs like “Poppa was a Playa”—which is a warts-and-all portrait of you?
He portrays accurate things in his lyrics. If he speaks anything about me or his mother or anything like that, that stuff is right. It’s on. That’s it.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

JAZZFM: GET IT ON

JAZZFM: GET IT ON: "8.10.04 :: Branford Marsalis to present new TV documentary
Next month sees the airing of a new documentary, It's a Jazz Thing, presented by saxophonist Branford Marsalis on Channel 4 on 13 November at 7.30pm. The 90-minute documentary was made by production company Somethin' Else and is directed by Christopher Walker. The documentary follows Marsalis' travels around Europe and the US as he meets leading contemporary figures in jazz including Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, John McLaughlin and Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, Medeski Martin and Wood, Tim Berne, Evan Parker, David S Ware, Ken Vandermark and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Commenting on the project, Jez Nelson, the executive producer on the show, says: 'There hasn't been a major, terrestrial jazz TV show for many years ? so this is really exciting for us. Branford is that rare thing ? a great musician who's also a superb and engaging presenter ? this should be a fantastic journey!' "

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Pete Jolly, jazz pianist

Pete Jolly, jazz pianistPete Jolly, jazz pianist and accordion player known for his disciplined work as a studio musician as well as his improvisational skills in live performances, died Saturday. He was 72.

Jolly, whose composition "Little Bird" was nominated for a Grammy in 1963, died in Pasadena, Calif., of complications of bone marrow cancer and an irregular heartbeat.

The Pete Jolly Trio, which for more than 35 years included bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Nick Martinis, performed in Southern California clubs until Jolly's hospitalization in August.

Born Peter A. Ceragioli Jr. in New Haven, Conn., he began studying accordion with his father at age 3 and at 7 appeared on the nationwide CBS radio program "Hobby Lobby." Billed as the "Boy Wonder Accordionist," he was mistakenly introduced by the announcer as "Pete Jolly" - and liked the error so much he adopted it as his professional name.

In 1954, playing with Barney Kessel and the Shorty Rogers Giants, he became a fixture in the softer, cooler West Coast jazz movement. In 1955, he recorded his first trio album, "Jolly Jumps In." His talent on piano, organ and accordion bolstered memorable music for many television shows and films, including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The New York Times > Arts > Music > Jazz Review: Soaking Up the Spaces at a New Jazz Center

The New York Times > Arts > Music > Jazz Review: Soaking Up the Spaces at a New Jazz Center: "Soaking Up the Spaces at a New Jazz Center
Soaking Up the Spaces at a New Jazz Center
By BEN RATLIFF

Some basic impressions of Jazz at Lincoln Center's new space, which opened last night: It is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, fairly expensive-feeling experience; it is flexible and alive.

Jazz has so many different connotations for different people. But at least some part of this three-theater complex, taking up the fifth and sixth floors of the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, could ring the bells of recognition of someone who had never been to a jazz performance before and only possessed the received wisdom of photographs and album covers: yes, this seems right; this is jazz. And it contains enough attention to detail to impress those who have spent the better part of their lives hearing it, too.

Last night's invitation-only opening shows, broadcast live on PBS, are not going to remain in the imagination as any kind of normal night: it was an evening for board members, donors, critics, musicians and those involved with the construction of the hall. And so it is too early to tell what it will feel like as the theaters begin their season-long schedule, with the bigger concerts in the 1,200-seat Rose Theater and the 550-seat Allen Room overlapping with shows in the 140-seat Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.

The Rose Theater, especially, was hard to get a grip on in a first encounter. It was set up as a theater-in-the-round, which won't always be the case, and for the sake of television, the ceiling lights were torching the house. And there's no way that all the different configurations of music, with guests coming and going for every song (among them Abbey Lincoln, Tony Bennett, Mark O'Connor, Giovanni Hidalgo, Cyro Baptista and Wynton Marsalis's musical family) could have been sound-checked to their best advantage. The music itself worked as a statement of purpose: a version of the organization's desired eclecticism in miniature, with a blues, a New Orleans tune ("Dippermouth Blues"), an orchestration of forró music from Northeastern Brazil, ballads, Coltrane, Basie and so on.

But at certain moments - as when the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra suddenly cut away from the tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, who played a few unaccompanied bars during his solo in "Body and Soul" - you could hear some of the richness we have in store. His saxophone sound had tremendous depth and resonance, a more intimate sound than we have become used to at Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, where Jazz at Lincoln Center's concerts were held since the mid-1980's.

For the basic potential of hearing jazz in a theater, it might not get much better than the Allen Room. The Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, eighteen musicians on an oval bandstand, set up there for three sets, through more than three hours of music, and they played their repertory, from Machito to new works like Tom Harrell's "Humility." The room is exceptionally well-balanced. With only light amplification (and the idea is that some performances in the future will have none), the music was detailed. Pablo Calogero's baritone saxophone came through as well as Milton Cardona's conga drums. And the high windows overlooking Central Park South give another staggering dimension: toward the top of the glass, you see the reflection of car headlights playing on the windows.

From the smaller windows behind the bandstand at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, you see half Trump International Hotel and Tower, half Central Park treetops. Bill Charlap played three sets there, a small space with a variety of guests sitting in, including Wynton Marsalis, who played whinnies and melodic inventions through "Just Friends," in front of Clark Terry, stopping by to check out the new place.

Adjustments, acoustic and otherwise, are made to nearly all theaters after they open. I've seen some clubs proceed for years in a fairly raw or problematic state. But already these rooms impressively translate into bricks-and-mortar reality how the planners of Jazz at Lincoln Center have raised the stakes for jazz to become visible and powerful in the city. In their thesis, jazz isn't secluded; it's right out there, exposed and imperious, peering over the street.


The New York Times > AP > Arts > New Home of Jazz Opens at Lincoln Center

The New York Times > AP > Arts > New Home of Jazz Opens at Lincoln Center: "October 18, 2004
October 18, 2004
New Home of Jazz Opens at Lincoln Center
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 8:09 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Led by Wynton Marsalis, a swinging group of musicians belted out ``When the Saints Go Marching In'' as they strutted down Broadway to kick off the opening of the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Office workers clapped from open windows, and other onlookers tapped their feet. Some even started to jitterbug on the street as excitement of the traditional New Orleans-style parade of saxophones, trumpets, tubas and trombones filled the brisk air.

``I just had to be here for this,'' said Igor Butman, a sax player from Moscow. ``This is the first real jazz center in the world.''

It was an event that Kiyoshi Koyama, a jazz music writer from Tokyo, didn't want to miss either.

``This is one of the major events in the history of jazz,'' Koyama said.

The $128 million Frederick P. Rose Hall features three concert and performance spaces, including Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, a 140-seat jazz club; an education center that includes a combined rehearsal hall and recording studio large enough to house a symphony orchestra; two classrooms and a jazz Hall of Fame.

The 1,200-seat Rose Theater is designed for jazz but also will accommodate opera, ballet, theater and orchestra performances. The Allen Room is a 500-seat performance space reminiscent of a Greek amphitheater that provides an airy elegant setting with spectacular views through a 50-foot-by-90-foot glass wall overlooking Central Park.

Derek Gordon, who took over as executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center last summer after 12 years at the Kennedy Center in Washington, where he created its jazz program, said the new center was ``dedicated to America's classical music, perhaps the only uniquely American art form.''

``This represents a higher level of acknowledgment, a new embracing of jazz as an art form,'' he said.

The opening festival continues through Nov. 5.

Marsalis, JALC'S artistic director who also was celebrating his 43rd birthday, said jazz giants such as Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie would be proud of the new center.

``They would probably start crying,'' said Marsalis, the first jazz artist to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in music. ``They gave a lot and fought hard to earn the recognition for jazz in our culture. We respect them and honor them with this center.''

------

On the Net:

http://www.jazzatlincolncenter.org/

MSNBC > Reuters > Jazz finds a new home in a New York skyscraper

NEW YORK, Oct. 19th 2004 Perched above a shopping mall in a skyscraper at the heart of corporate America, the new home of New York's leading jazz orchestra is a long way from the smoky basements and soulful southern cities of the past.

''Welcome to the house of swing'' -- with those words Wynton Marsalis, of the legendary jazz family, opened the new headquarters of Jazz at Lincoln Center Monday night with a gala performance in an auditorium designed specially for the acoustics of jazz.
Earlier he led a New Orleans-style musical parade down Broadway, kicking off the inaugural festival at the three venues housed in the Time Warner Center that towers over the southwest corner of Central Park.
Public performances start Thursday with the Dizzy Gillespie Festival in the smallest and most intimate of the venues -- Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, whose curved walls, low lighting and tables give the atmosphere of a nightclub.
The Frederick P. Rose Hall complex, sitting above the clothes stores and cafes in the sleek new glass towers, was built at a cost of $128 million and includes recording studios and classrooms for lectures and educational events.
''We've built a house that really swings with the way jazz works, the way jazz feels, and most of all, the way jazz sounds,'' Marsalis said before the gala opening featuring names such as Tony Bennett and Abbey Lincoln, as well as another four members of the Marsalis clan.
Jazz has always been a family affair, and the new center aims to start them young. Children as young as two can join the singing and dancing in the WeBop! educational program.
The main 1,200-seat Rose Theater is designed for jazz but will also be used for opera, ballet, theater and orchestra performances. The most spectacular of the venues is the Allen Room, a 500-seat auditorium with dramatic views through a 50-foot-by-90-foot (15-meter by 27-meter) glass wall overlooking Central Park and the shimmering lights of the city.
Initial reactions were good. ''Sophisticated, cosmopolitan ... flexible and alive,'' was the verdict of The New York Times.
Artistic director Marsalis said it's all about the music. ''Either you can play or you can't play. That's the test.''



Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Noted Blogs.Com > Wynton Marsalis on 60 Minutes today on CBS

Wynton Marsalis on 60 Minutes today on CBS - Wednesday, October 13th. You could say that Wynton Marsalis is at a crossroads. Wynton Marsalis about to turn 43, he just changed record labels and he and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are about to move from Alice Tully Hall, where they have performed for almost two decades, to a new, 1,200 seat room that is the first concert hall built specifically for Jazz. And while some critics have said that Jazz itself is at a crossroads, struggling to survive, Wynton Marsalis disagrees. To hear why, watch Ed Bradley?s report this week on 60 Minutes Wednesday (CBS, October 13, 8PM EST/PT).
A fixture on the American cultural scene, Wynton Marsalis has brought Jazz back to centre stage in the U.S.A. through his relentless work ethic and drive. He is also a distinguished classical performer whose many recordings for Sony Classical have been an important aspect of his career since it began. In 1997 he became the first Jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize in music, for his epic oratorio on the subject of slavery, "Blood on the Fields". As a composer and performer, Wynton Marsalis is also represented on a quartet of Sony Classical releases, "At the Octoroon Balls: String Quartet No. 1," "A Fiddler's Tale," "Reel Time" and "Sweet Release" and "Ghost Story: Two More Ballets" by Wynton Marsalis. All are volumes of an eight-CD series, titled "Swinging Into The 21st", that is an unprecedented set of albums released recently featuring a remarkable scope of original compositions and standards, from Jazz to Classical to Ballet, by composers from Jelly Roll Morton to Stra!
vinsky to Monk, in addition to Wynton Marsalis.
Posted by Jean-Luc RAYMOND at 06:37 PM in In the media | Permalink
From:http://noted.blogs.com/westcoastmusic/2004/10/wynton_marsalis.html

YAHOO NEWS> Entertainment - AP Gossip/Celebrity Charlie Parker's Remains May Be Moved

Wed Oct 13, 3:09 PM ET
Entertainment - AP Gossip/Celebrity
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The American Jazz Museum Board is considering moving jazz musician Charlie Parker's remains to a new grave.

The board voted Tuesday to explore the idea of moving Parker's remains to the 18th and Vine District in Kansas City. The vote was prompted by a recent trash dumping at Lincoln Cemetery, where Parker is buried.
The board favors moving Parker's remains to a mausoleum in a sculpture of Parker at Charlie Parker Memorial Plaza, near the jazz museum.
"It would be good to move it (the grave) from an area where no one can find it to down here where ... people can come and pay their respects," said board member Mike White.
Before any final decision is made, the board will research the legal requirements and costs of such a move.
From: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20041013/ap_en_ce/people_charlie_parker
On the Net:
http://www .americanjazzmuseum.com
http://www.cmgww.com /music/parker

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Trademark Blog > CECIL McBEE: Did Trap Sales Create Personal Jurisdiction?

Friday, October 01, 2004
Sometime after the jazz musician Cecil McBee played in Japan for the first time, someone opened a CECIL McBEE clothing store there and now it's a successful chain. McBee has sued in Japan under a theory of right of personality, with mixed success. A front page article in today's Wall Street Journal on the on-going dispute indicates (without comment) that McBee's US lawyers had agents order clothes from Japan to be shipped here. McBee then used those sales to allege personal jurisdiction and sued the Japanese chain store here. Hmmmm. There are cases that have rejected this ploy, stating that a plaintiff may not manufacture personal jurisdiction over a defendant. See, e.g. Maritz v. Cybergold (discussed in this journal article).
iBusinessLaw.info discussed the District Court case here and Perkins Coie discussed it here. It is not clear whether the three sales to Maine referred to in the case are the 'trap' sales referred to in the article.
From: http://trademark.blog.us/blog/2004/10/01.html#a1398


Friday, October 01, 2004

INDB.Com > Stars Pay Tribute to Ray Charles

A host of musical stars paid tribute to the late Ray Charles at a special concert in California Wednesday night. Artists including Stevie Wonder and Michael McDonald performed the blues singer's hits at the tribute show hosted by legendary comedian Bill Cosby. Cosby quipped to the audience which included Quincy Jones and Travis Tritt that Charles, "lived more lives than any 900 hundred of you." He also shared some of his memories of the star, including an occasion when the blind musician appeared at a jazz festival backed by an all white band. Cosby said, "I said to Ray, 'Your band is all white'. He said, 'That's funny. They don't sound white'." Charles passed away aged 73 when his liver failed earlier this year. All proceeds from the tribute concert will go to the Morehouse College Centre in Atlanta, to which Charles donated $2 million during his lifetime.
From: http://www.imdb.com/news/wenn/


Monday, September 27, 2004

Hightplayer: The Jazz Ladies, cont'd

nightplayer: The Jazz Ladies, cont'd: "

The Jazz Ladies, cont'd
Sarah Vaughan
Sassy

1924-1990, lung cancer

Possibly the greatest technical singer of jazz... ever. She possessed perfect pitch, and was a master of timbre and tonal changes, singing as if her voice was just another instrument in a band. Started in her church's choir at a very young age, and was accompanying on their organ by age 12. She got her break at the Apollo Theater in 1942, where she was picked up by Earl Fatha Hines and his big band, thanks to then band member Bill Eckstine. She followed Eckstine when he formed his own band, then spent the rest of her life singing solo and recording almost every jazz standard in existence with countless collaborations with every kind of jazz musician and ensemble. She enjoyed decades of popularity for her various recordings of popular songs, and won a Grammy despite her failing health in 1982 for a recording of Gershwin tunes."

Friday, September 24, 2004

Slobakan.com > Ellis L. Marsalis Sr. Dies

: Wednesday, September 22, 2004 :::
OBITUARIES@ 20:53:25 - 2 views Ellis L. Marsalis Sr., the patriarch of a family of world famous jazz musicians, including grandson Wynton Marsalis, has died. He was 96.
MarsalisÂ’ son, Ellis Jr., is a prominent New Orleans pianist and music professor who mentored crooner Harry Connick Jr. as well as four musician sons: Wynton, the trumpeter; saxophonist Branford; trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason.
Ellis Sr., who died Sunday, was involved in the civil rights movement through ownership of a motel in suburban New Orleans whose guests included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and musician Ray Charles.



Thursday, September 09, 2004

Yahoo News > Reuters > S.African Musician Masekela Tells of Drug Risks

Wed Sep 8, 9:18 PM ET
By Peter Apps
TEMBISA, South Africa (Reuters) - Exile, alcoholism, drug addiction, discrimination, failed marriages -- South African jazz icon Hugh Masekela has been through them all.
Now he has now broadened his act beyond music to include educating township children on the dangers of addiction, talking about more than four decades on drugs and alcohol.
"I've had a long dysfunctional life," he told Reuters after speaking to a school in Tembisa township outside Johannesburg.
"I wouldn't like to see them go through the drug addiction, the womanizing, just the craziness. I think it's very important to warn them but also to warn them to have passion for what they want to be."
Born in 1939, Masekela grew up in Johannesburg's Alexandra township, where he says music flourished as the white apartheid government clamped down on rights.
Shortly after his school closed because the Anglican cleric who ran it refused to obey the government's edict that blacks receive less education, Masekela left a letter to his parents saying he was abandoning learning and going off to make his life in jazz.
He never looked back.
MUSIC IN HIS EARS
"All I hear is music in my ears," he wrote to them. "Nothing else seems to matter."
Playing a trumpet donated by American jazz legend Louis Armstrong, he first joined a band in South Africa before leaving for London in 1960 and then traveling on to the United States.
His 1968 single "Grazing in the Grass" hit the number one spot around the world, but he was frequently in trouble with the authorities, being arrested several times for drug possession in the United States and Zimbabwe.
Masekela, who was briefly married in the 1960s to Miriam Makeba, the first black South African singer to gain international fame, returned to Africa numerous times.
He played at a concert during the festivities around the famed 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" fight between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, the capital of the former Zaire.
Remaining in exile "only in body," Masekela returned to South Africa in 1991 to tour the country as the apartheid system was in its death throes.
"We played to ... audiences for four months all over the country." he said. "That was a joy because that was my return home, but it's been like that ever since."
In his autobiography "Still Grazing," he says after his return to South Africa his addictions continued, with his partners and investors closing down his Johannesburg night club as they realized he was a bad risk and was losing money.
After a last night of cocaine, alcohol, smoking and sex, friends helped him check into a clinic in Britain.
"They turn you into a different person," he warns children in Tembisa about drugs. "Just say no. No thank you."
"Just say no. No thank you," they chant back.
Despite the end of apartheid, Masekela says the country still has a long way to go in its reforms. South Africa has one of the widest divisions between rich and poor in the world.
IF MUSIC COULD CHANGE THE WORLD
"We're not being chased by police any more and we're not harassed, but we're still poor," he said.
"If the people who control the economy are not willing to show charity and goodwill, then circumstances will always remain the same."
His latest song talks about AIDS (news - web sites), poverty and violence, but Masekela says he expects his music to have limited impact.
"If music could change the world, Bob Dylan (news) and Bob Marley would have changed it long ago," he said.
"I'm just a mirror of my society. I don't think music can make miracles. It might bring awareness to certain people but it's just a drop in the ocean."
Now aged 65 and happily married to his fourth wife, Masekela says that while he still enjoys his music he doesn't want to continue forever.
"I don't plan to be doing this when I'm 70," he told Reuters after a concert. "I've got other things to do, books to write, grandchildren to raise and laughs to laugh."
From: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=769&u=/nm/20040909/music_nm/safrica_masekela_dc&printer=1



Yahoo News > Reuters > S.African Musician Masekela Tells of Drug Risks

Wed Sep 8, 9:18 PM ET
By Peter Apps
TEMBISA, South Africa (Reuters) - Exile, alcoholism, drug addiction, discrimination, failed marriages -- South African jazz icon Hugh Masekela has been through them all.
Now he has now broadened his act beyond music to include educating township children on the dangers of addiction, talking about more than four decades on drugs and alcohol.
"I've had a long dysfunctional life," he told Reuters after speaking to a school in Tembisa township outside Johannesburg.
"I wouldn't like to see them go through the drug addiction, the womanizing, just the craziness. I think it's very important to warn them but also to warn them to have passion for what they want to be."
Born in 1939, Masekela grew up in Johannesburg's Alexandra township, where he says music flourished as the white apartheid government clamped down on rights.
Shortly after his school closed because the Anglican cleric who ran it refused to obey the government's edict that blacks receive less education, Masekela left a letter to his parents saying he was abandoning learning and going off to make his life in jazz.
He never looked back.
MUSIC IN HIS EARS
"All I hear is music in my ears," he wrote to them. "Nothing else seems to matter."
Playing a trumpet donated by American jazz legend Louis Armstrong, he first joined a band in South Africa before leaving for London in 1960 and then traveling on to the United States.
His 1968 single "Grazing in the Grass" hit the number one spot around the world, but he was frequently in trouble with the authorities, being arrested several times for drug possession in the United States and Zimbabwe.
Masekela, who was briefly married in the 1960s to Miriam Makeba, the first black South African singer to gain international fame, returned to Africa numerous times.
He played at a concert during the festivities around the famed 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" fight between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, the capital of the former Zaire.
Remaining in exile "only in body," Masekela returned to South Africa in 1991 to tour the country as the apartheid system was in its death throes.
"We played to ... audiences for four months all over the country." he said. "That was a joy because that was my return home, but it's been like that ever since."
In his autobiography "Still Grazing," he says after his return to South Africa his addictions continued, with his partners and investors closing down his Johannesburg night club as they realized he was a bad risk and was losing money.
After a last night of cocaine, alcohol, smoking and sex, friends helped him check into a clinic in Britain.
"They turn you into a different person," he warns children in Tembisa about drugs. "Just say no. No thank you."
"Just say no. No thank you," they chant back.
Despite the end of apartheid, Masekela says the country still has a long way to go in its reforms. South Africa has one of the widest divisions between rich and poor in the world.
IF MUSIC COULD CHANGE THE WORLD
"We're not being chased by police any more and we're not harassed, but we're still poor," he said.
"If the people who control the economy are not willing to show charity and goodwill, then circumstances will always remain the same."
His latest song talks about AIDS (news - web sites), poverty and violence, but Masekela says he expects his music to have limited impact.
"If music could change the world, Bob Dylan (news) and Bob Marley would have changed it long ago," he said.
"I'm just a mirror of my society. I don't think music can make miracles. It might bring awareness to certain people but it's just a drop in the ocean."
Now aged 65 and happily married to his fourth wife, Masekela says that while he still enjoys his music he doesn't want to continue forever.
"I don't plan to be doing this when I'm 70," he told Reuters after a concert. "I've got other things to do, books to write, grandchildren to raise and laughs to laugh."
From: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=769&u=/nm/20040909/music_nm/safrica_masekela_dc&printer=1



MissionCreep.com > Sun Ra:Stranger from Outer Space by Mike Walsh

In tomorrow's world, men will not need artificial instruments such as jets and space ships. In the world of tomorrow, the new man will 'think' the place he wants to go, then his mind will take him there. -- Sun Ra, 1956

Nothing about Sun Ra's six-decade musical career could be called normal. He recorded somewhere around 200 albums, although no one knows for sure. He toured the world, was revered in Europe, and staged at least three 100 piece concerts, one at the pyramids in Egypt. He was the subject of several films, pioneered the use of electronic keyboards like Moog synthesizers, created his own independent record label, and influenced countless jazz and rock musicians. His pronouncements were drenched in his unique cosmic mysticism, and his band members claimed he had telepathic powers. Most importantly, he made music, as he wrote, "rushing forth like a fiery law."
Sun Ra claimed that he was sent to earth from outer space to save humanity and bring harmony to the world. If you were lucky enough to catch Sun Ra's live show before he died in 1993, you probably believed him.
Mr. Ra came from the tradition of vaudeville, swing, and Chicago show clubs. He was also deeply spiritual, and his live shows encompassed all of these elements. They were several hour ritualistic ceremonies featuring a hot orchestra of a dozen or more (referred to as the "Arkestra"), poetry, light shows, dancers, marches through the audience, and squealing sax solos.
Sometimes the band members would take the stage to the chant of "Heigh-ho, heigh ho, it's off to work we go." Most shows included a long percussion jam with the horn players switching to persussion instruments, many of them homemade. If he was in the mood, Ra would take a synthesizer solo that inevitably erupted in a volcanic crescendo.
The Arkestra members wore colorful, glistening outfits that were a combination of African tribesman garb and outer space suits. As was appropriate for a high priest, Sun Ra usually wore the most outrageous outfit, with a headdress and flowing cloak.
Jerry Gordon, who co-owns Evidence Music, which has re-issued twenty early Sun Ra albums on CD, remembers being overwhelmed by the first Sun Ra show he saw in the early 70s.
"It was an incredible concert," he says. "It was music like I had never heard before. Ra and the dancers were wearing capes. Fans on the floor blew the capes so they looked like multicolored wings. They had a spiral light on John Gilmore during his solos that created a tunnel effect. Ra was also using lights to make it look like he was sticking his head in a black hole in space. It was just unbelievable. I considered it holy music, music people should hear."
If you didn't get a chance to see Sun Ra perform, you should seek out Space is the Place, an early 70s movie starring the jazz master from Saturn himself. Ra floats about in a rocket ship propelled by his music and does battle with the FBI, NASA, and other supernatural bad guys. The movie has a cosmic humor, and like Sun Ra it is at times fascinating, indecipherable, and absurd.
The Arkestra makes several appearances in the film in full regalia, and the soundtrack, also re-issued by Evidence, is full of ferocious full-orchestra jams. Horn, percussion, and synthesizer freakouts move in and out like waves of turbulence on sixteen tracks of Sun Ra favorites.
Sun Ra's costumes are extravagant, even for him. The film was directed by filmmaker Jim Newman, who has since admitted that even he doesn't understand it. (Space is the Place is currently available on video from Rhapsody Films.)
If you find earth boring
Just the same old same thing
C'mon sign up with
Outer Spaceways, Incorporated

Sun Ra was born Herman P. Blount on May 22, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama. His father left the family when he was a child, and he was raised mostly by his aunt and grandmother. 'Sonny,' as he was nicknamed, received a piano for his seventh birthday, and with little musical training, taught himself to read music.
He formed his own band in high school, and an associate from those days recalls that back then Sonny was able "to get different rhythms and peculiar notes."
Sonny went to Alabama A&M on a scholarship, where he led the student band. He would transcribe the popular swing band tunes from the radio and soon have his band playing them.
While in college, an incident took place that transformed his life. He claimed that he had been transported into a spaceship by aliens, who informed him of his higher calling. He dropped out of college and, for several years leading up to World War II, played throughout the South with various Birmingham-based bands. He had to play behind a curtain in certain southern clubs because the white patrons objected to the sight of black musicians.
It was during this time that Blount developed a rehearsal style that he would use the rest of his life: he turned his living quarters into a rehearsal and recording studio and practiced virtually around the clock. He also recruited a cadre of musicians--not quite a 'band' because they performed in public very infrequently--and gave them free music lessons if they were willing to show up at his house on short notice and try out his arrangements.
During World War II, Sonny Blount was jailed for being a conscientious objector. He was so engrossed in music and his research in ancient black cultures and so adverse to violence, that fighting in a war was inconceivable to him. He left Birmingham for good after the war and moved to Chicago, a jazz hotbed.
He was soon hired as the practice pianist at the popular and glamorous Club DeLisa, which had show girls, comedians, singers, and floor shows. At the DeLisa he got to work with his idol, Fletcher Henderson, one of the originators of the swing sound.
Even in the '40s other musicians spoke of the strangeness of the music he played. Erskine Hawkins said of Blount in the '40s, "Sun Ra would go into chords that nowadays are pretty common but back then were in another world." He was nicknamed "Moon Man" for his spacey lingo and far-out music, although he went by the stage name of Sonny Lee.
In the early '50s, he formed small groups that played mostly be-bop and standards. He slowly increased the number of musicians in his combo. Some of them were still in high school. As trumpeter Phil Cohran explains, "He had a lot of trouble with the so-called good musicians. He became successful when he started training young guys."
John Gilmore, the band's tenor saxophone mainstay for the next four decades, joined Le Sony'r Ra, as he was known then, in 1953 after a stint in the Army. Pat Patrick and Marshall Allen, sax players who would work with Sun Ra for decades, also joined up during this early period.
By the mid-'50s, he had dubbed himself Sun Ra, and the band, which had grown to a dozen players, was known as his 'Arkestra.' In 1956, he established Saturn Records to produce and distribute his records.
This was an extremely creative period for Ra, who would write new material constantly and sleep very little. His band practiced, recorded, and played virtually every day. After a few years, Ra had whipped the outfit into a tight, focused, swingin' machine. It was an eccentric ensemble that could swing or play exotic mood pieces.
By the late '50s, Ra was incorporating odd instruments into the Arkestra's sound, like zithers, timbales, chimes, claves, all kinds of bells and gongs, and things with names like "solar drum," "space lute," and "boom bam." He also had the Arkestra wearing space costumes, like helmets with flashing lights and propellers. Some of the early costumes were hand-me-downs from a Chicago opera company.
The Arkestra's sound was becoming increasingly abstract. Ra was experimenting with pieces that dealt more with sound coloring and texture than structure. He was also utilizing African rhythms with multiple percussionists, which was unusual for the late '50s.

In 1961, the Arkestra moved to Montreal briefly and, following a series of aborted gigs, then to New York. By that time, only Gilmore, Allen, and bassist Ronnie Boykins remained with the Arkestra.
Within a few years, Ra built the ensemble back up to full strength with New York musicians and began to attract attention. He was part of the "free jazz" revolution taking place in Greenwich Village in the '60s along with John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, and others.
"As we started adding New York musicians, we started moving to the avant-garde," said John Gilmore. "That was right in our bag, and we were ready for it because Sun Ra had trained us in Chicago, playing half tones and quarter tones, stuff like that."
By the mid-'60s, Sun Ra and the Arkestra weren't just visiting deep space; it was their permanent residence. The music had become an otherworldly mix of atonal, aberrant, sounds and effects. Sun Ra had transformed his eccentric big band of hard bop soloists into a experimental open-improvisation ensemble. Ra was becoming "the philosopher-king of Afro-psychedelia," as writer Michael Shore put it.
Ra's music of this period was typified by counter melodies, off-key horn barrages, polyrhythms, titanic organ and synthesizer solos, and dissonant note clusters. The works were getting longer and the solos more stretched-out. A piece might be in several different keys, in no key at all, or in Ra's so-called "space key." When he was charged with being too eccentric, Ra pushed himself even further into the void.
Despite the pioneering far-outness, Sun Ra objected to the term "free" jazz. His pieces weren't free. They were carefully crafted, structured works.
The Arkestra was known by a variety of names including the Solar Myth Arkestra, Cosmo Jet Set Arkestra, Myth-Science Arkestra, Intergalactic Research Arkestra, and Astro-Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra. The pay was usually so low that many of the musicians played outside gigs with other bands.
In late 1968, Ra moved the Arkestra to Philadelphia. "To save the planet, I had to go to the worst spot on Earth," he later explained, "and that was Philadelphia, which is death's headquarters."
Actually, the Arkestra was faced with eviction from the house it rented in the Lower East Side, so the band relocated when Marshall Allen's mother offered them a rowhouse in the Germantown section of the city. "We didn't have anywhere else to go," Gilmore said.
In the late '60s, vocalist and dancer June Tyson joined the arkestra. Ra had decided to spread his message through lyrics as well as music, and Tyson fit the Arkestra perfectly in spirit and style. She eventually became Sun Ra's foil, confidently espousing Ra's puzzling ideology. She said that when she was on stage singing Sun Ra's lyrics, she thought of herself as a celestial being.
During the next few years, Ra and the Arkestra traveled several times to California. In 1971, Ra taught a course at Berkeley called "The Black Man in the Cosmos." Few students took the course, although large numbers of Oakland residents attended. The reading list included the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Bible, and books on hieroglyphics. Ra also spent part of each class playing the keyboards. He responded to the puzzled students' questions with a riddle or a knowing smile. He was never paid for the course.

Impulse, a division of ABC, released a handful of Sun Ra LPs in the '70s. These releases gave him wide distribution and international exposure for the first time.
As Sun Ra's reputation grew, he and the Arkestra, which at times grew to thirty members, toured extensively especially in Europe. They even visited Egypt for a spiritual vacation and concert. Gilmore calls the visit to the pyramids, "The most beautiful experience I had on this earth. It made everything worthwhile."
Like many jazz musicians, Ra received much more acclaim in Europe than in the U.S. Unfortunately, the European tours usually generated no more income than was necessary for expenses.
Gilmore remembered the Arkestra returning from a European tour with nothing more than pocket change. "It was rough at pay time with all those guys in the band," he said, "but that's what Sun Ra always wanted, that big sound."
Hundreds of musicians came through the Arkestra over the years, some lasting only a few gigs and some, like saxophonist John Gilmore, lasting decades. But being in the Arkestra was a difficult way of life. The band members never made much money, and Ra demanded discipline and hard work. He banned drugs, alcohol, and women, and band members had to be available for practice around-the-clock.
Despite these inconveniences and Ra's many idiosyncrasies, virtually all of the musicians who came through Sun Ra's Arkestra attest to how much they learned from him.
When asked why he stayed with Sun Ra for forty years, John Gilmore remarked, "He was the first one to introduce me to the higher forms of music, past what Bird and Monk were doing. It's unbelievable that anyone could write meaner intervals than those guys, but he did. When I realized that, I said, 'Well, I guess I'll make this the stop.'"
Gilmore almost left Sun Ra in the '50s but changed his mind. "I learned more from Sun Ra in my first nine months with him than I had my whole life, not only in music but in philosophy and life in general. He elevated my whole scene. He changed my life."
During his 40-year recording career, Sun Ra released well over 100 self-produced records on Saturn and distributed them at his gigs and a few choice record stores. They were usually packaged in white sleeves with wild homemade cover art.
The Saturn records were full of discrepancies that Ra seemed to enjoy. "Some of the records he had recorded in 1956, '57, or '58, and didn't come out until, say, 1965," says Gordon, who sold Sun Ra's records at Third Street Jazz & Rock in Philadelphia. "Stuff from three different years and three different sessions would appear on a record. Almost always the records listed the wrong personnel. Some had no titles, no dates, no documentation. Everything to do with his label was confused, and I believe it was intentionally confused. He'd bring in a Saturn record, I'd sell out of it, but I could never get it back because he'd pressed a different album already. Some of them had no title, just a psychedelic design on the cover."
Outer space is a pleasant place
A place where you can be free
There's no limit to the things you can do
Your thought is free and your life is worthwhile
Space is the place

By far, the oddest element to Sun Ra's career was his eccentric philosophy. He always appeared in an outer space costume and never relinquished his odd ideology, going space-bound whenever it suited his purpose.
"I'm a spirit master," he said. "I've been to a zone where there is no air, no light, no sound, no life, no death, nothing. There's five billion people on this planet, all out of tune. I've got to raise their consciousness, tell them about the wonderful potential to bypass death."
He claimed that cars and rocket ships would one day run on music, presumably his music. He refused to reveal much about his past. "That's his-story," he'd say. "My story is a my-stery." With his soft monotone voice, he gave the impression of a musical Buddha, speaking in riddles and contradictions at every opportunity.
"People loved to question Sun Ra about being born on Saturn, but these things were said to bring people out of their normal, humdrum, everyday reality," says Gordon. "It's not about whether he's telling the truth. He tried to express his vision and get people out of the shadow world with his music. He was an educator and philosopher who tried to enlighten people."
Sun Ra's mysticism was based on faith in a better world elsewhere. "Somewhere in the other side of nowhere is a place in space beyond time where the Gods of mythology dwell," Mr. Ra said. "These gods dwell in their mythocracies as opposed to your theocracies, democracies, and monocracies. They dwell in a magic world. These Gods can even offer you immortality."
Ra confused and confounded the mainstream jazz world, and he found little acceptance or recognition there. Purists ignored him as an eccentric kook, and many jazz critics found his idiosyncrasies annoying. He was the antithesis of slick, smooth, high-profile, commercially-acceptable jazz musician. He simply refused to compromise and preferred to operate as a cult figure outside the jazz establishment.
"A lot of people never got past the costumes and the mysticism," says Gordon, "but Sun Ra was a genius and was not nearly as popular as he should've been. You could put out a college kid doing the music of Sun Ra, and it would probably sell better than Sun Ra."
Near the end of his life, Ra complained about the lack of acceptance and recognition he received in this country. He was especially bitter about Philadelphia. "The city has insulted me," he said in 1988. "I've been in this city long enough to be respected. There's a conspiracy, not by the government, I don't know who, to keep my music down."
In the late '80s and early '90s, Sun Ra did garner national recognition. The alternative rock world embraced him as a major influence. The Arkestra played a gig on Saturday Night Live and jammed in Central Park with Sonic Youth. Robert Mugge made an excellent documentary about him and his space age theology called Sun Ra, A Joyful Noise. He was honored with the Liberty Bowl award from the city of Philadelphia and was voted the top big band in a Downbeat magazine critic's poll. And for the first time, he released two recordings on a major label-A&M.
However, Sun Ra suffered a stroke in October 1992 and returned to his native Birmingham for medical care. (Ever the cosmic jester, when he was admitted to the hospital he listed his address as "Saturn.") On May 30, 1993, the spirit master from outer space left this world. He was 80 years old.

All of Sun Ra's music was steeped in the past but was simultaneously pioneering. He used tradition not to repeat but to take the music somewhere new. Whatever the style, his music always challenged the listener.
"Sun Ra's music didn't need any explanation," says Jerry Gordon. "Once you stopped trying to intellectualize it and just gave yourself to it, the music was self-evident. You can't look for secrets of the universe in it. You understand Sun Ra only by listening to the arkestra and abandoning yourself to the music."
In his music he created a utopian world with its own logic and mysteries. His live shows, like a religious ceremony, invited the audience to take up concerns beyond this world. Part sci-fi shaman, part comic book character, part genius, Sun Ra wanted to lead us to a cosmic paradise through his music. His music was a blessing of mysterious grace from a world only he understood. As he once wrote:
In some far off place
Many light years in space
I'll build a world of abstract dreams
And wait for you
From: http://www.missioncreep.com/mw/sunra.html


MissionCreep.com > Sun Ra:Stranger from Outer Space by Mike Walsh

In tomorrow's world, men will not need artificial instruments such as jets and space ships. In the world of tomorrow, the new man will 'think' the place he wants to go, then his mind will take him there. -- Sun Ra, 1956

Nothing about Sun Ra's six-decade musical career could be called normal. He recorded somewhere around 200 albums, although no one knows for sure. He toured the world, was revered in Europe, and staged at least three 100 piece concerts, one at the pyramids in Egypt. He was the subject of several films, pioneered the use of electronic keyboards like Moog synthesizers, created his own independent record label, and influenced countless jazz and rock musicians. His pronouncements were drenched in his unique cosmic mysticism, and his band members claimed he had telepathic powers. Most importantly, he made music, as he wrote, "rushing forth like a fiery law."
Sun Ra claimed that he was sent to earth from outer space to save humanity and bring harmony to the world. If you were lucky enough to catch Sun Ra's live show before he died in 1993, you probably believed him.
Mr. Ra came from the tradition of vaudeville, swing, and Chicago show clubs. He was also deeply spiritual, and his live shows encompassed all of these elements. They were several hour ritualistic ceremonies featuring a hot orchestra of a dozen or more (referred to as the "Arkestra"), poetry, light shows, dancers, marches through the audience, and squealing sax solos.
Sometimes the band members would take the stage to the chant of "Heigh-ho, heigh ho, it's off to work we go." Most shows included a long percussion jam with the horn players switching to persussion instruments, many of them homemade. If he was in the mood, Ra would take a synthesizer solo that inevitably erupted in a volcanic crescendo.
The Arkestra members wore colorful, glistening outfits that were a combination of African tribesman garb and outer space suits. As was appropriate for a high priest, Sun Ra usually wore the most outrageous outfit, with a headdress and flowing cloak.
Jerry Gordon, who co-owns Evidence Music, which has re-issued twenty early Sun Ra albums on CD, remembers being overwhelmed by the first Sun Ra show he saw in the early 70s.
"It was an incredible concert," he says. "It was music like I had never heard before. Ra and the dancers were wearing capes. Fans on the floor blew the capes so they looked like multicolored wings. They had a spiral light on John Gilmore during his solos that created a tunnel effect. Ra was also using lights to make it look like he was sticking his head in a black hole in space. It was just unbelievable. I considered it holy music, music people should hear."
If you didn't get a chance to see Sun Ra perform, you should seek out Space is the Place, an early 70s movie starring the jazz master from Saturn himself. Ra floats about in a rocket ship propelled by his music and does battle with the FBI, NASA, and other supernatural bad guys. The movie has a cosmic humor, and like Sun Ra it is at times fascinating, indecipherable, and absurd.
The Arkestra makes several appearances in the film in full regalia, and the soundtrack, also re-issued by Evidence, is full of ferocious full-orchestra jams. Horn, percussion, and synthesizer freakouts move in and out like waves of turbulence on sixteen tracks of Sun Ra favorites.
Sun Ra's costumes are extravagant, even for him. The film was directed by filmmaker Jim Newman, who has since admitted that even he doesn't understand it. (Space is the Place is currently available on video from Rhapsody Films.)
If you find earth boring
Just the same old same thing
C'mon sign up with
Outer Spaceways, Incorporated

Sun Ra was born Herman P. Blount on May 22, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama. His father left the family when he was a child, and he was raised mostly by his aunt and grandmother. 'Sonny,' as he was nicknamed, received a piano for his seventh birthday, and with little musical training, taught himself to read music.
He formed his own band in high school, and an associate from those days recalls that back then Sonny was able "to get different rhythms and peculiar notes."
Sonny went to Alabama A&M on a scholarship, where he led the student band. He would transcribe the popular swing band tunes from the radio and soon have his band playing them.
While in college, an incident took place that transformed his life. He claimed that he had been transported into a spaceship by aliens, who informed him of his higher calling. He dropped out of college and, for several years leading up to World War II, played throughout the South with various Birmingham-based bands. He had to play behind a curtain in certain southern clubs because the white patrons objected to the sight of black musicians.
It was during this time that Blount developed a rehearsal style that he would use the rest of his life: he turned his living quarters into a rehearsal and recording studio and practiced virtually around the clock. He also recruited a cadre of musicians--not quite a 'band' because they performed in public very infrequently--and gave them free music lessons if they were willing to show up at his house on short notice and try out his arrangements.
During World War II, Sonny Blount was jailed for being a conscientious objector. He was so engrossed in music and his research in ancient black cultures and so adverse to violence, that fighting in a war was inconceivable to him. He left Birmingham for good after the war and moved to Chicago, a jazz hotbed.
He was soon hired as the practice pianist at the popular and glamorous Club DeLisa, which had show girls, comedians, singers, and floor shows. At the DeLisa he got to work with his idol, Fletcher Henderson, one of the originators of the swing sound.
Even in the '40s other musicians spoke of the strangeness of the music he played. Erskine Hawkins said of Blount in the '40s, "Sun Ra would go into chords that nowadays are pretty common but back then were in another world." He was nicknamed "Moon Man" for his spacey lingo and far-out music, although he went by the stage name of Sonny Lee.
In the early '50s, he formed small groups that played mostly be-bop and standards. He slowly increased the number of musicians in his combo. Some of them were still in high school. As trumpeter Phil Cohran explains, "He had a lot of trouble with the so-called good musicians. He became successful when he started training young guys."
John Gilmore, the band's tenor saxophone mainstay for the next four decades, joined Le Sony'r Ra, as he was known then, in 1953 after a stint in the Army. Pat Patrick and Marshall Allen, sax players who would work with Sun Ra for decades, also joined up during this early period.
By the mid-'50s, he had dubbed himself Sun Ra, and the band, which had grown to a dozen players, was known as his 'Arkestra.' In 1956, he established Saturn Records to produce and distribute his records.
This was an extremely creative period for Ra, who would write new material constantly and sleep very little. His band practiced, recorded, and played virtually every day. After a few years, Ra had whipped the outfit into a tight, focused, swingin' machine. It was an eccentric ensemble that could swing or play exotic mood pieces.
By the late '50s, Ra was incorporating odd instruments into the Arkestra's sound, like zithers, timbales, chimes, claves, all kinds of bells and gongs, and things with names like "solar drum," "space lute," and "boom bam." He also had the Arkestra wearing space costumes, like helmets with flashing lights and propellers. Some of the early costumes were hand-me-downs from a Chicago opera company.
The Arkestra's sound was becoming increasingly abstract. Ra was experimenting with pieces that dealt more with sound coloring and texture than structure. He was also utilizing African rhythms with multiple percussionists, which was unusual for the late '50s.

In 1961, the Arkestra moved to Montreal briefly and, following a series of aborted gigs, then to New York. By that time, only Gilmore, Allen, and bassist Ronnie Boykins remained with the Arkestra.
Within a few years, Ra built the ensemble back up to full strength with New York musicians and began to attract attention. He was part of the "free jazz" revolution taking place in Greenwich Village in the '60s along with John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, and others.
"As we started adding New York musicians, we started moving to the avant-garde," said John Gilmore. "That was right in our bag, and we were ready for it because Sun Ra had trained us in Chicago, playing half tones and quarter tones, stuff like that."
By the mid-'60s, Sun Ra and the Arkestra weren't just visiting deep space; it was their permanent residence. The music had become an otherworldly mix of atonal, aberrant, sounds and effects. Sun Ra had transformed his eccentric big band of hard bop soloists into a experimental open-improvisation ensemble. Ra was becoming "the philosopher-king of Afro-psychedelia," as writer Michael Shore put it.
Ra's music of this period was typified by counter melodies, off-key horn barrages, polyrhythms, titanic organ and synthesizer solos, and dissonant note clusters. The works were getting longer and the solos more stretched-out. A piece might be in several different keys, in no key at all, or in Ra's so-called "space key." When he was charged with being too eccentric, Ra pushed himself even further into the void.
Despite the pioneering far-outness, Sun Ra objected to the term "free" jazz. His pieces weren't free. They were carefully crafted, structured works.
The Arkestra was known by a variety of names including the Solar Myth Arkestra, Cosmo Jet Set Arkestra, Myth-Science Arkestra, Intergalactic Research Arkestra, and Astro-Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra. The pay was usually so low that many of the musicians played outside gigs with other bands.
In late 1968, Ra moved the Arkestra to Philadelphia. "To save the planet, I had to go to the worst spot on Earth," he later explained, "and that was Philadelphia, which is death's headquarters."
Actually, the Arkestra was faced with eviction from the house it rented in the Lower East Side, so the band relocated when Marshall Allen's mother offered them a rowhouse in the Germantown section of the city. "We didn't have anywhere else to go," Gilmore said.
In the late '60s, vocalist and dancer June Tyson joined the arkestra. Ra had decided to spread his message through lyrics as well as music, and Tyson fit the Arkestra perfectly in spirit and style. She eventually became Sun Ra's foil, confidently espousing Ra's puzzling ideology. She said that when she was on stage singing Sun Ra's lyrics, she thought of herself as a celestial being.
During the next few years, Ra and the Arkestra traveled several times to California. In 1971, Ra taught a course at Berkeley called "The Black Man in the Cosmos." Few students took the course, although large numbers of Oakland residents attended. The reading list included the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Bible, and books on hieroglyphics. Ra also spent part of each class playing the keyboards. He responded to the puzzled students' questions with a riddle or a knowing smile. He was never paid for the course.

Impulse, a division of ABC, released a handful of Sun Ra LPs in the '70s. These releases gave him wide distribution and international exposure for the first time.
As Sun Ra's reputation grew, he and the Arkestra, which at times grew to thirty members, toured extensively especially in Europe. They even visited Egypt for a spiritual vacation and concert. Gilmore calls the visit to the pyramids, "The most beautiful experience I had on this earth. It made everything worthwhile."
Like many jazz musicians, Ra received much more acclaim in Europe than in the U.S. Unfortunately, the European tours usually generated no more income than was necessary for expenses.
Gilmore remembered the Arkestra returning from a European tour with nothing more than pocket change. "It was rough at pay time with all those guys in the band," he said, "but that's what Sun Ra always wanted, that big sound."
Hundreds of musicians came through the Arkestra over the years, some lasting only a few gigs and some, like saxophonist John Gilmore, lasting decades. But being in the Arkestra was a difficult way of life. The band members never made much money, and Ra demanded discipline and hard work. He banned drugs, alcohol, and women, and band members had to be available for practice around-the-clock.
Despite these inconveniences and Ra's many idiosyncrasies, virtually all of the musicians who came through Sun Ra's Arkestra attest to how much they learned from him.
When asked why he stayed with Sun Ra for forty years, John Gilmore remarked, "He was the first one to introduce me to the higher forms of music, past what Bird and Monk were doing. It's unbelievable that anyone could write meaner intervals than those guys, but he did. When I realized that, I said, 'Well, I guess I'll make this the stop.'"
Gilmore almost left Sun Ra in the '50s but changed his mind. "I learned more from Sun Ra in my first nine months with him than I had my whole life, not only in music but in philosophy and life in general. He elevated my whole scene. He changed my life."
During his 40-year recording career, Sun Ra released well over 100 self-produced records on Saturn and distributed them at his gigs and a few choice record stores. They were usually packaged in white sleeves with wild homemade cover art.
The Saturn records were full of discrepancies that Ra seemed to enjoy. "Some of the records he had recorded in 1956, '57, or '58, and didn't come out until, say, 1965," says Gordon, who sold Sun Ra's records at Third Street Jazz & Rock in Philadelphia. "Stuff from three different years and three different sessions would appear on a record. Almost always the records listed the wrong personnel. Some had no titles, no dates, no documentation. Everything to do with his label was confused, and I believe it was intentionally confused. He'd bring in a Saturn record, I'd sell out of it, but I could never get it back because he'd pressed a different album already. Some of them had no title, just a psychedelic design on the cover."
Outer space is a pleasant place
A place where you can be free
There's no limit to the things you can do
Your thought is free and your life is worthwhile
Space is the place

By far, the oddest element to Sun Ra's career was his eccentric philosophy. He always appeared in an outer space costume and never relinquished his odd ideology, going space-bound whenever it suited his purpose.
"I'm a spirit master," he said. "I've been to a zone where there is no air, no light, no sound, no life, no death, nothing. There's five billion people on this planet, all out of tune. I've got to raise their consciousness, tell them about the wonderful potential to bypass death."
He claimed that cars and rocket ships would one day run on music, presumably his music. He refused to reveal much about his past. "That's his-story," he'd say. "My story is a my-stery." With his soft monotone voice, he gave the impression of a musical Buddha, speaking in riddles and contradictions at every opportunity.
"People loved to question Sun Ra about being born on Saturn, but these things were said to bring people out of their normal, humdrum, everyday reality," says Gordon. "It's not about whether he's telling the truth. He tried to express his vision and get people out of the shadow world with his music. He was an educator and philosopher who tried to enlighten people."
Sun Ra's mysticism was based on faith in a better world elsewhere. "Somewhere in the other side of nowhere is a place in space beyond time where the Gods of mythology dwell," Mr. Ra said. "These gods dwell in their mythocracies as opposed to your theocracies, democracies, and monocracies. They dwell in a magic world. These Gods can even offer you immortality."
Ra confused and confounded the mainstream jazz world, and he found little acceptance or recognition there. Purists ignored him as an eccentric kook, and many jazz critics found his idiosyncrasies annoying. He was the antithesis of slick, smooth, high-profile, commercially-acceptable jazz musician. He simply refused to compromise and preferred to operate as a cult figure outside the jazz establishment.
"A lot of people never got past the costumes and the mysticism," says Gordon, "but Sun Ra was a genius and was not nearly as popular as he should've been. You could put out a college kid doing the music of Sun Ra, and it would probably sell better than Sun Ra."
Near the end of his life, Ra complained about the lack of acceptance and recognition he received in this country. He was especially bitter about Philadelphia. "The city has insulted me," he said in 1988. "I've been in this city long enough to be respected. There's a conspiracy, not by the government, I don't know who, to keep my music down."
In the late '80s and early '90s, Sun Ra did garner national recognition. The alternative rock world embraced him as a major influence. The Arkestra played a gig on Saturday Night Live and jammed in Central Park with Sonic Youth. Robert Mugge made an excellent documentary about him and his space age theology called Sun Ra, A Joyful Noise. He was honored with the Liberty Bowl award from the city of Philadelphia and was voted the top big band in a Downbeat magazine critic's poll. And for the first time, he released two recordings on a major label-A&M.
However, Sun Ra suffered a stroke in October 1992 and returned to his native Birmingham for medical care. (Ever the cosmic jester, when he was admitted to the hospital he listed his address as "Saturn.") On May 30, 1993, the spirit master from outer space left this world. He was 80 years old.

All of Sun Ra's music was steeped in the past but was simultaneously pioneering. He used tradition not to repeat but to take the music somewhere new. Whatever the style, his music always challenged the listener.
"Sun Ra's music didn't need any explanation," says Jerry Gordon. "Once you stopped trying to intellectualize it and just gave yourself to it, the music was self-evident. You can't look for secrets of the universe in it. You understand Sun Ra only by listening to the arkestra and abandoning yourself to the music."
In his music he created a utopian world with its own logic and mysteries. His live shows, like a religious ceremony, invited the audience to take up concerns beyond this world. Part sci-fi shaman, part comic book character, part genius, Sun Ra wanted to lead us to a cosmic paradise through his music. His music was a blessing of mysterious grace from a world only he understood. As he once wrote:
In some far off place
Many light years in space
I'll build a world of abstract dreams
And wait for you
From: http://www.missioncreep.com/mw/sunra.html


MissionCreep.com > Sun Ra:Stranger from Outer Space by Mike Walsh

In tomorrow's world, men will not need artificial instruments such as jets and space ships. In the world of tomorrow, the new man will 'think' the place he wants to go, then his mind will take him there. -- Sun Ra, 1956

Nothing about Sun Ra's six-decade musical career could be called normal. He recorded somewhere around 200 albums, although no one knows for sure. He toured the world, was revered in Europe, and staged at least three 100 piece concerts, one at the pyramids in Egypt. He was the subject of several films, pioneered the use of electronic keyboards like Moog synthesizers, created his own independent record label, and influenced countless jazz and rock musicians. His pronouncements were drenched in his unique cosmic mysticism, and his band members claimed he had telepathic powers. Most importantly, he made music, as he wrote, "rushing forth like a fiery law."
Sun Ra claimed that he was sent to earth from outer space to save humanity and bring harmony to the world. If you were lucky enough to catch Sun Ra's live show before he died in 1993, you probably believed him.
Mr. Ra came from the tradition of vaudeville, swing, and Chicago show clubs. He was also deeply spiritual, and his live shows encompassed all of these elements. They were several hour ritualistic ceremonies featuring a hot orchestra of a dozen or more (referred to as the "Arkestra"), poetry, light shows, dancers, marches through the audience, and squealing sax solos.
Sometimes the band members would take the stage to the chant of "Heigh-ho, heigh ho, it's off to work we go." Most shows included a long percussion jam with the horn players switching to persussion instruments, many of them homemade. If he was in the mood, Ra would take a synthesizer solo that inevitably erupted in a volcanic crescendo.
The Arkestra members wore colorful, glistening outfits that were a combination of African tribesman garb and outer space suits. As was appropriate for a high priest, Sun Ra usually wore the most outrageous outfit, with a headdress and flowing cloak.
Jerry Gordon, who co-owns Evidence Music, which has re-issued twenty early Sun Ra albums on CD, remembers being overwhelmed by the first Sun Ra show he saw in the early 70s.
"It was an incredible concert," he says. "It was music like I had never heard before. Ra and the dancers were wearing capes. Fans on the floor blew the capes so they looked like multicolored wings. They had a spiral light on John Gilmore during his solos that created a tunnel effect. Ra was also using lights to make it look like he was sticking his head in a black hole in space. It was just unbelievable. I considered it holy music, music people should hear."
If you didn't get a chance to see Sun Ra perform, you should seek out Space is the Place, an early 70s movie starring the jazz master from Saturn himself. Ra floats about in a rocket ship propelled by his music and does battle with the FBI, NASA, and other supernatural bad guys. The movie has a cosmic humor, and like Sun Ra it is at times fascinating, indecipherable, and absurd.
The Arkestra makes several appearances in the film in full regalia, and the soundtrack, also re-issued by Evidence, is full of ferocious full-orchestra jams. Horn, percussion, and synthesizer freakouts move in and out like waves of turbulence on sixteen tracks of Sun Ra favorites.
Sun Ra's costumes are extravagant, even for him. The film was directed by filmmaker Jim Newman, who has since admitted that even he doesn't understand it. (Space is the Place is currently available on video from Rhapsody Films.)
If you find earth boring
Just the same old same thing
C'mon sign up with
Outer Spaceways, Incorporated

Sun Ra was born Herman P. Blount on May 22, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama. His father left the family when he was a child, and he was raised mostly by his aunt and grandmother. 'Sonny,' as he was nicknamed, received a piano for his seventh birthday, and with little musical training, taught himself to read music.
He formed his own band in high school, and an associate from those days recalls that back then Sonny was able "to get different rhythms and peculiar notes."
Sonny went to Alabama A&M on a scholarship, where he led the student band. He would transcribe the popular swing band tunes from the radio and soon have his band playing them.
While in college, an incident took place that transformed his life. He claimed that he had been transported into a spaceship by aliens, who informed him of his higher calling. He dropped out of college and, for several years leading up to World War II, played throughout the South with various Birmingham-based bands. He had to play behind a curtain in certain southern clubs because the white patrons objected to the sight of black musicians.
It was during this time that Blount developed a rehearsal style that he would use the rest of his life: he turned his living quarters into a rehearsal and recording studio and practiced virtually around the clock. He also recruited a cadre of musicians--not quite a 'band' because they performed in public very infrequently--and gave them free music lessons if they were willing to show up at his house on short notice and try out his arrangements.
During World War II, Sonny Blount was jailed for being a conscientious objector. He was so engrossed in music and his research in ancient black cultures and so adverse to violence, that fighting in a war was inconceivable to him. He left Birmingham for good after the war and moved to Chicago, a jazz hotbed.
He was soon hired as the practice pianist at the popular and glamorous Club DeLisa, which had show girls, comedians, singers, and floor shows. At the DeLisa he got to work with his idol, Fletcher Henderson, one of the originators of the swing sound.
Even in the '40s other musicians spoke of the strangeness of the music he played. Erskine Hawkins said of Blount in the '40s, "Sun Ra would go into chords that nowadays are pretty common but back then were in another world." He was nicknamed "Moon Man" for his spacey lingo and far-out music, although he went by the stage name of Sonny Lee.
In the early '50s, he formed small groups that played mostly be-bop and standards. He slowly increased the number of musicians in his combo. Some of them were still in high school. As trumpeter Phil Cohran explains, "He had a lot of trouble with the so-called good musicians. He became successful when he started training young guys."
John Gilmore, the band's tenor saxophone mainstay for the next four decades, joined Le Sony'r Ra, as he was known then, in 1953 after a stint in the Army. Pat Patrick and Marshall Allen, sax players who would work with Sun Ra for decades, also joined up during this early period.
By the mid-'50s, he had dubbed himself Sun Ra, and the band, which had grown to a dozen players, was known as his 'Arkestra.' In 1956, he established Saturn Records to produce and distribute his records.
This was an extremely creative period for Ra, who would write new material constantly and sleep very little. His band practiced, recorded, and played virtually every day. After a few years, Ra had whipped the outfit into a tight, focused, swingin' machine. It was an eccentric ensemble that could swing or play exotic mood pieces.
By the late '50s, Ra was incorporating odd instruments into the Arkestra's sound, like zithers, timbales, chimes, claves, all kinds of bells and gongs, and things with names like "solar drum," "space lute," and "boom bam." He also had the Arkestra wearing space costumes, like helmets with flashing lights and propellers. Some of the early costumes were hand-me-downs from a Chicago opera company.
The Arkestra's sound was becoming increasingly abstract. Ra was experimenting with pieces that dealt more with sound coloring and texture than structure. He was also utilizing African rhythms with multiple percussionists, which was unusual for the late '50s.

In 1961, the Arkestra moved to Montreal briefly and, following a series of aborted gigs, then to New York. By that time, only Gilmore, Allen, and bassist Ronnie Boykins remained with the Arkestra.
Within a few years, Ra built the ensemble back up to full strength with New York musicians and began to attract attention. He was part of the "free jazz" revolution taking place in Greenwich Village in the '60s along with John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, and others.
"As we started adding New York musicians, we started moving to the avant-garde," said John Gilmore. "That was right in our bag, and we were ready for it because Sun Ra had trained us in Chicago, playing half tones and quarter tones, stuff like that."
By the mid-'60s, Sun Ra and the Arkestra weren't just visiting deep space; it was their permanent residence. The music had become an otherworldly mix of atonal, aberrant, sounds and effects. Sun Ra had transformed his eccentric big band of hard bop soloists into a experimental open-improvisation ensemble. Ra was becoming "the philosopher-king of Afro-psychedelia," as writer Michael Shore put it.
Ra's music of this period was typified by counter melodies, off-key horn barrages, polyrhythms, titanic organ and synthesizer solos, and dissonant note clusters. The works were getting longer and the solos more stretched-out. A piece might be in several different keys, in no key at all, or in Ra's so-called "space key." When he was charged with being too eccentric, Ra pushed himself even further into the void.
Despite the pioneering far-outness, Sun Ra objected to the term "free" jazz. His pieces weren't free. They were carefully crafted, structured works.
The Arkestra was known by a variety of names including the Solar Myth Arkestra, Cosmo Jet Set Arkestra, Myth-Science Arkestra, Intergalactic Research Arkestra, and Astro-Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra. The pay was usually so low that many of the musicians played outside gigs with other bands.
In late 1968, Ra moved the Arkestra to Philadelphia. "To save the planet, I had to go to the worst spot on Earth," he later explained, "and that was Philadelphia, which is death's headquarters."
Actually, the Arkestra was faced with eviction from the house it rented in the Lower East Side, so the band relocated when Marshall Allen's mother offered them a rowhouse in the Germantown section of the city. "We didn't have anywhere else to go," Gilmore said.
In the late '60s, vocalist and dancer June Tyson joined the arkestra. Ra had decided to spread his message through lyrics as well as music, and Tyson fit the Arkestra perfectly in spirit and style. She eventually became Sun Ra's foil, confidently espousing Ra's puzzling ideology. She said that when she was on stage singing Sun Ra's lyrics, she thought of herself as a celestial being.
During the next few years, Ra and the Arkestra traveled several times to California. In 1971, Ra taught a course at Berkeley called "The Black Man in the Cosmos." Few students took the course, although large numbers of Oakland residents attended. The reading list included the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Bible, and books on hieroglyphics. Ra also spent part of each class playing the keyboards. He responded to the puzzled students' questions with a riddle or a knowing smile. He was never paid for the course.

Impulse, a division of ABC, released a handful of Sun Ra LPs in the '70s. These releases gave him wide distribution and international exposure for the first time.
As Sun Ra's reputation grew, he and the Arkestra, which at times grew to thirty members, toured extensively especially in Europe. They even visited Egypt for a spiritual vacation and concert. Gilmore calls the visit to the pyramids, "The most beautiful experience I had on this earth. It made everything worthwhile."
Like many jazz musicians, Ra received much more acclaim in Europe than in the U.S. Unfortunately, the European tours usually generated no more income than was necessary for expenses.
Gilmore remembered the Arkestra returning from a European tour with nothing more than pocket change. "It was rough at pay time with all those guys in the band," he said, "but that's what Sun Ra always wanted, that big sound."
Hundreds of musicians came through the Arkestra over the years, some lasting only a few gigs and some, like saxophonist John Gilmore, lasting decades. But being in the Arkestra was a difficult way of life. The band members never made much money, and Ra demanded discipline and hard work. He banned drugs, alcohol, and women, and band members had to be available for practice around-the-clock.
Despite these inconveniences and Ra's many idiosyncrasies, virtually all of the musicians who came through Sun Ra's Arkestra attest to how much they learned from him.
When asked why he stayed with Sun Ra for forty years, John Gilmore remarked, "He was the first one to introduce me to the higher forms of music, past what Bird and Monk were doing. It's unbelievable that anyone could write meaner intervals than those guys, but he did. When I realized that, I said, 'Well, I guess I'll make this the stop.'"
Gilmore almost left Sun Ra in the '50s but changed his mind. "I learned more from Sun Ra in my first nine months with him than I had my whole life, not only in music but in philosophy and life in general. He elevated my whole scene. He changed my life."
During his 40-year recording career, Sun Ra released well over 100 self-produced records on Saturn and distributed them at his gigs and a few choice record stores. They were usually packaged in white sleeves with wild homemade cover art.
The Saturn records were full of discrepancies that Ra seemed to enjoy. "Some of the records he had recorded in 1956, '57, or '58, and didn't come out until, say, 1965," says Gordon, who sold Sun Ra's records at Third Street Jazz & Rock in Philadelphia. "Stuff from three different years and three different sessions would appear on a record. Almost always the records listed the wrong personnel. Some had no titles, no dates, no documentation. Everything to do with his label was confused, and I believe it was intentionally confused. He'd bring in a Saturn record, I'd sell out of it, but I could never get it back because he'd pressed a different album already. Some of them had no title, just a psychedelic design on the cover."
Outer space is a pleasant place
A place where you can be free
There's no limit to the things you can do
Your thought is free and your life is worthwhile
Space is the place

By far, the oddest element to Sun Ra's career was his eccentric philosophy. He always appeared in an outer space costume and never relinquished his odd ideology, going space-bound whenever it suited his purpose.
"I'm a spirit master," he said. "I've been to a zone where there is no air, no light, no sound, no life, no death, nothing. There's five billion people on this planet, all out of tune. I've got to raise their consciousness, tell them about the wonderful potential to bypass death."
He claimed that cars and rocket ships would one day run on music, presumably his music. He refused to reveal much about his past. "That's his-story," he'd say. "My story is a my-stery." With his soft monotone voice, he gave the impression of a musical Buddha, speaking in riddles and contradictions at every opportunity.
"People loved to question Sun Ra about being born on Saturn, but these things were said to bring people out of their normal, humdrum, everyday reality," says Gordon. "It's not about whether he's telling the truth. He tried to express his vision and get people out of the shadow world with his music. He was an educator and philosopher who tried to enlighten people."
Sun Ra's mysticism was based on faith in a better world elsewhere. "Somewhere in the other side of nowhere is a place in space beyond time where the Gods of mythology dwell," Mr. Ra said. "These gods dwell in their mythocracies as opposed to your theocracies, democracies, and monocracies. They dwell in a magic world. These Gods can even offer you immortality."
Ra confused and confounded the mainstream jazz world, and he found little acceptance or recognition there. Purists ignored him as an eccentric kook, and many jazz critics found his idiosyncrasies annoying. He was the antithesis of slick, smooth, high-profile, commercially-acceptable jazz musician. He simply refused to compromise and preferred to operate as a cult figure outside the jazz establishment.
"A lot of people never got past the costumes and the mysticism," says Gordon, "but Sun Ra was a genius and was not nearly as popular as he should've been. You could put out a college kid doing the music of Sun Ra, and it would probably sell better than Sun Ra."
Near the end of his life, Ra complained about the lack of acceptance and recognition he received in this country. He was especially bitter about Philadelphia. "The city has insulted me," he said in 1988. "I've been in this city long enough to be respected. There's a conspiracy, not by the government, I don't know who, to keep my music down."
In the late '80s and early '90s, Sun Ra did garner national recognition. The alternative rock world embraced him as a major influence. The Arkestra played a gig on Saturday Night Live and jammed in Central Park with Sonic Youth. Robert Mugge made an excellent documentary about him and his space age theology called Sun Ra, A Joyful Noise. He was honored with the Liberty Bowl award from the city of Philadelphia and was voted the top big band in a Downbeat magazine critic's poll. And for the first time, he released two recordings on a major label-A&M.
However, Sun Ra suffered a stroke in October 1992 and returned to his native Birmingham for medical care. (Ever the cosmic jester, when he was admitted to the hospital he listed his address as "Saturn.") On May 30, 1993, the spirit master from outer space left this world. He was 80 years old.

All of Sun Ra's music was steeped in the past but was simultaneously pioneering. He used tradition not to repeat but to take the music somewhere new. Whatever the style, his music always challenged the listener.
"Sun Ra's music didn't need any explanation," says Jerry Gordon. "Once you stopped trying to intellectualize it and just gave yourself to it, the music was self-evident. You can't look for secrets of the universe in it. You understand Sun Ra only by listening to the arkestra and abandoning yourself to the music."
In his music he created a utopian world with its own logic and mysteries. His live shows, like a religious ceremony, invited the audience to take up concerns beyond this world. Part sci-fi shaman, part comic book character, part genius, Sun Ra wanted to lead us to a cosmic paradise through his music. His music was a blessing of mysterious grace from a world only he understood. As he once wrote:
In some far off place
Many light years in space
I'll build a world of abstract dreams
And wait for you
From: http://www.missioncreep.com/mw/sunra.html