SUN RA: The Magic City
For their first reissue, the Sun Ra estate chose Magic City, originally released in 1965 and a testament to Ra’s experimental instincts and indifference to following jazz trends. The instrumentation is extreme and the combinations unusual; the structure rolls through different small ensembles and solos and stretches of full arkhestra organically (Ra would point to whoever he wanted to play, or to stop playing, as they went along, so band members were free to play what they wanted but not when). There are timbral extremes, and consonances, made stranger by liberal use of the spookier stops of the Selmer clavioline (Ra was one of the first jazz musicians to embrace electric and electronic instruments). On side two of the LP were two versions of what Ra called ‘abstract experiment take 1’ and ‘abstract experiment take 2’, fascinating to compare – on these Ra plays sun harp, celeste, tympani and bass marimba (it had been left in the studio by the hire company; Ra immediately commandeered it). These two tracks are classics. Extra to the original recording is a second take of Magic City, made at the same session. Especially praiseworthy is the scholarly approach and trouble take. Bootlegged crappy versions with wrong and insubstantial documentation have been all too prevalent. For this reissue, proper stereo masters have been sourced and the 16pp booklet is a model of proper research and scholarship, as well as collecting participant testimony to the original sessions. Exemplary.