Sun Ra’s Sleeping Beauty and On Jupiter are towering documents of late 1970s Arkestral prowess, the warmth and funkiness have made them favourites with Sun Ra fans. The recordings for the two albums took place at New York’s Variety Recording Studios on three separate dates during 1979 (sessions that also yielded the material for Strange Celestial Road), and both records are highpoints of the Arkestra’s 1970s journey. On Jupiter effortlessly cruises across genre boundaries toward a rarely visited star on the deep disco funk ‘UFO’, while ‘Seductive Fantasy’ and ‘On Jupiter’ are timeless examples of Sun Ra’s inimitable cosmo-swing sensibilities. Sleeping Beauty meanwhile is one of the most profound and compelling sets in the whole Ra discography, and the Variety Studio sound captures the Arkestra with unique clarity and depth. Recorded with an expanded 28-piece band, the album features woozy avant-ballad ‘Springtime Again’, the glittering future funk of ‘Door to the Cosmos’, and finally the stunning meditative, spiritualised groove of ‘Sleeping Beauty’. On Jupiter and Sleeping Beauty: twin stars that shine brightly from deep within the myriad Sun Ra galaxies!
Sun Ra And His Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra Sleeping Beauty.
1 Springtime Again
2. Door Of The Cosmos
1. Sleeping Beauty
Sun Ra piano, electric piano, organ, vocals
John Gilmore tenor sax, percussion, vocals
Marshall Allen alto sax, flute
Eloe Omoe bass clarinet, flute, percussion
Michael Ray trumpet, vocals
Danny Thompson baritone sax, 1ute, percussion
Luqrnan Ali drums, vocals
Knoel Scott alto sax, baritone sax, percussion
Craig Harris trombone
Tony Bethel trombone
Vlncent Chancey french hom
James Jackson bassoon, flute, percussion
Walter Miller trumpet
June Tyson vocals
Rhoda Blount vocals
Richard Williams electric bass
Stanley Morgan congas
Harry Wilson vibraphone
Curt Pulliam trumpet
Kenny Williams tenor sax, flute
Hutch Jones alto sax, tenor sax
Taylor Richardson electric guitar
Steve Clark electric bass
Damon Choice vibraphone, vocals
Eddie Thomas drums
Reg McDonald drums
Sylvester Baton reeds
By the late 1970s the Saturn record label had become a musical newspaper, keeping the world abreast of the latest developments in the Sun Ra story, for those people lucky or persistent enough to find the few outlets where the albums were appearing. Sun Ra was releasing more records on his own label than ever before – at least six Saturn LPs document his activities in 1979 alone. This however, is the first reissue of any 1979 Saturn album, and will be widely welcomed – Sleeping Beauty instantly became one of Sun Ra’s best loved records, and remains so to this day.
At this period, compared to previous years, Saturn records tended to document more of Sun Ra’s current work rather than older tapes. This was certainly true of one particular group of four albums released simultaneously into Saturn Records’ distribution channels within a year of being recorded: God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be, Omniverse and On Jupiter, and Sleeping Beauty. These all represented facets of Ra’s work during 1979, and between them include everything from piano trio compositions to conducted improvisations to disco music.
Sleeping Beauty features the funkier end of the Sun Ra spectrum. It is a studio recording featuring at least twenty-eight musicians, an enlarged version of the Arkestra which had just crossed the Atlantic to play the 1979 Moers festival. The line up includes both acoustic and electric bass players, and electric guitarists, and the reed and brass sections are both augmented beyond the core members of the Arkestra. The recording session which produced Sleeping Beauty also gave us Strange Celestial Road, released on the Rounder label. The two albums have a markedly different feel, in spite of the common date – according to vibraphone player Damon Choice, the differences perhaps partly stem from later post production, and the addition of vocals. All three tracks on Sleeping Beauty have tenor solos by John Gilmore which can count among his finest work. Other musicians’ work is also very worthy of note: Vincent Chancey’s french hom in particular. The overall textures of the arrangements and also the sound of this particular Arkestra, are unique, found on no other Sun Ra album: listen to the opening to “Door Of The Cosmos”, as vocals and keyboards are joined by guitars and bass, and the hom arrangements cut in around Gilmore’s solo. There are many fine such moments throughout the album.
This album features groove-oriented tracks with sublime multi-instrumental complexity, a large ensemble recording, similar to that found on Sun Ra’s Lanquidity and On Jupiter albums. Sleeping Beauty is a high point in Sun Ra’s discography. The electric guitar and bass play a critical role in driving the music, with hypnotic electric piano, organ and vibe lines that flow with gentle restraint and some beautiful sax solos from John Gilmore and Marshall Allen. This album features gospel-like vocals from the wonderful June Tyson and Rhoda Blount helping to establish the spiritual and mystical foundation of Sun Ra’s music – a totally uplifting and joyous listening experience.
1st pressing Sleeping Beauty: Matrix / Runout (side A, etched): 11-1-79 A Matrix / Runout ( side B, etched): 11-1-79-B
Sun Ra And His Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra On Jupiter
1. On Jupiter
1. Seductive Fantasy
Sun Ra Piano, electric piano, organ, vocals
John Gilmore Tenor sax, percussion, vocals
Marshall Allen Alto sax, flute, oboe
Luqman Ali Drums, vocals
Michael Ray Trumpet, vocals
Eddie Gale Trumpet
Danny Thompson Baritone saxophone, flute, percussion
Julian Pressley Baritone saxophone
Knoel Scott Alto Sax
June Tyson Vocals
Skeeter McFarland Electric guitar
Taylor Richardson Electric guitar
Richard Williams Bass
Samarai Celestial Drums
Eloe Omoe Bass clarinet
Steve Clarke Electric bass
Reg McDonald Drums
James Jacson Bassoon, flute, percussion,
Ancient Egyptian Infinity Lightning drum
Unknown Violin, Cello
On Jupiter is near ideal as an introduction to the musical worlds of Sun Ra. It has a magical mix of colours from Sun Ra’s varied palette. Beneath its compelling surface lie many layers of musical detail, and numerous hints as to where Sun Ra was coming from and where he was heading. It combines real depth with beauty and hits you the first time you hear it. On Jupiter represents Sun Ra’s closest encounter with the world of disco. In the late 1970s he made other albums which also gesture in this direction – Lanquidity has a jazzrock feel while remaining firmly part of the Ra omniverse, this is true too of Disco 3000 despite its title. On Jupiter really has only one track which fits the ‘disco’ tag – “UFO” – but this piece is such a strong statement that it becomes the centre of gravity of the album. This has meant that the other tracks here have been somewhat overlooked.
“Seductive Fantasy” is a fine performance, with a rare chance to hear James Jacson’s bassoon in both its opening and closing stages. “Seductive Fantasy” has an ensemble theme stated twice during the performance, featuring John Gilmore, who also offers a very fine tenor solo. Before this there is a fine understated solo by a baritone saxophonist, as well as contributions from Marshall Allen on oboe, electric guitars and bass. There is a cameo for Eloe Omoe’s bass clarinet, and towards the end of the piece unidentified arco string players make an appearance.
There is much excellent Sun Ra piano to be heard throughout the whole of “Seductive Fantasy”. The title track, “On Jupiter”, features Marshall Allen’s oboe and Sun Ra’s piano, along with guitars and bass and multi-layered percussion. This is the first appearance on record of this piece, afterwards to remain a frequently performed item in the Arkestra’s book. “UFO” bursts into life with the full Arkestra in disco mode, and contains solos from John Gilmore, Taylor Richardson and Michael Ray. “UFO” is one of those pieces which Sun Ra seems to have added to the band’s book only for a short time, after which he left it alone. This is its second known appearance, the only others being from a few concerts, all within a few months of each other in mid 1979. This studio recording was made around May 1979, according to drummer Samarai Celestial, who identifies it as predating his tenure with the Arkestra – he plays on the other two pieces on the album, recorded in October that year.
Sun Ra would reportedly rehearse his band to the point of exhaustion, but in the studio his was usually a one-take approach, close to a concert performance. This did not necessarily mean that every album appeared in the form it was recorded. On Jupiter, like Lanquidity (but unlike Disco 3000, essentially a live recording) owes a lot of its final sound to post-production. The album was mixed by Michael Ray, who layered in prerecorded material with that produced in the studio – Sun Ra sent Ray back to the Arkestra base during the mixing session, and Ray returned with “a handful of tapes”. Close listening would suggest that some of the guitar and percussion and possibly some vocals were added in this way.
On Jupiter: Originally released on the El Saturn record label, Matrix / Runout #101679. Recorded mid to late May and on October 16th 1979 in New York.
Front Cover Photograph © Baron Wolman, Sun Ra 14th December 1968 Berkeley California. Artwork by Art Yard.
Back Cover Photograph © Val Wilmer, Sun Ra 1979 Morton Street Philadelphia. In the doorway Atakatune (conga drums) and friend, Danny Thompson and Community Historian Spencer Weston and ( in the foreground) – a neighbour.
An El Saturn Recording, Re-mastered and Re-issued by Art Yard Ltd. Published by Enterplanetary Koncepts.
Produced for Art Yard by Peter Dennett, Transfered and Mastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works.
Publishing and Copyright by Art Yard Ltd and Enterplanetary Koncepts.
Special Thanks to Sun Ra, John Gilmore, June Tyson, Charles Davis, Marshall Allen, Pat Patrick, Michael Ray, Danny Ray Thompson, Knoel Scott, Elson Nascimento and The Sun Ra Alter Destiny 21st Century Epic Myth Science Cosmic Dream Arkestra band members.
Thomas Jenkins Jr (Managing Director, Sun Ra LLC), Michael D. Anderson (Sun Ra Music Archives), Irwin Chusid (administrator, Sun Ra LLC),
Quinton Scott at Strut, John Corbett, Paul Griffiths, Chris Trent, Hartmut Geerken, Cornelia Mueller, Val Wilmer, Francis Gooding, Siofra McComb,Edwin Pouncey, Jill Tipping, John Sinclair, Antal Heitlager at Rush Hour, Leni Sinclair, Rick Steiger, Carey Hamblett, Chris Cutler, Dave Pelts at RER Megacorp.
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