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SUN RA: Media Dreams (dbl CD)
Companion to Disco 3000, made on the same classic Italian quartet tour with John Gilmore, Michael Ray (trumpet) and the minimal but perfect Luqman Ali (drums). Ra himself plays piano and electronic keyboards, including the mysterious Crumar Mainman, which Ra describes as 'like a piano, organ, clavichord, cello, violin and brass instruments' and which also, importantly, has a facility for pre-programmed bass-lines and electronic percussion - which Ra uses constantly and to great effect in this small ensemble setting - and seldom, if ever, elsewhere. The best of this collection (most of CD1) is luminous: very electronic, often rhythmical and melodic, always economical and making every sound count. These tracks are like no other jazz ensemble and, although recognisable as Ra - who else could think of, and then get away with, this - unlike any other Ra ensemble either. Ra makes the machines do amazing, visionary, things while the band exercises restraint, remaining always in focus. Between, there are piano, saxophone, trumpet and drum vignettes, fresh and perfectly judged; this really was a fine band. This places the original vinyl release (and related releases: Sound Mirror and Disco 300) back into the context of the concerts from which they were drawn. An important addition to the Sun Ra canon since it is a rare document of an unusual Ra project that produced three classic late '70s LPs. Beautifully packaged and well annotated.