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1) Island in the Sun (5.23)
2) The Invisible Shield (5.43)
3) Janus (6.59)
4) Velvet (7.22)
5) Joy (9.15)
1. Island in the Sun
Variety Recording Studio, New York City, 1968-1970.
Sun Ra, piano; Danny Davis, alto clarinet; Marshall Allen, flute; probably
Ronnie Boykins, bass; John Gilmore, percussion; prob. Pat Patrick,
2. The Invisible Shield
Recorded in mono, probably at a live performance, 1970.
Sun Ra, organ, Mini-Moog synthesizer; Marshall Allen, alto saxophone; poss.
Danny Davis, alto sax; Danny Ray Thompson, Neptunian libflecto (modified
bassoon); prob. Clifford Jarvis, drums.
After the early commentary from the horns, "Invisible Shield" becomes a
nearly unaccompanied keyboard solo for Sun Ra. "The Invisible Shield" ends
and "Janus" begins when the organ chords and "dentist drill" sounds from
the Moog are suddenly replaced by loud, low, reverberant banging sounds
(either from gongs, or low notes from one of Sunny's electronic keyboards
recorded with lots of distortion; I am still trying to figure this out).
I've transcribed the remarks that Art Jenkins made when "Janus" was played
over radio station WKCR-FM, New York City, on April 17, 1987. Sun Ra had
challenged Jenkins to "sing about Africa." Among other things Jenkins
said, "So after several rehearsals, we were ready... This time, my spirit
took me back to Africa. And it was like in a dreamworld sense, but I was
back in an African village, with African musicians, singers, and dancers.
It was like, 'It's your time to sing.' One singer moves to the next
singer, and so forth, just like the (universal) voice moves."
The excellent remastering and noise reduction have enabled me to hear these
first three pieces more clearly than ever before. I did not realize before
that none of Sun Ra's keyboards are involved in the main part of "Janus,"
or that Ronnie Boykins was the bassist (playing almost entirely with the
bow). At the end of "Janus," the Arkestral horns are briefly heard in the
background: John Gilmore's tenor sax is instantly identifiable, and there
is an alto sax and probably a bass clarinet in the ensemble.
This is indeed the Sun Ra composition from 1956. The performance appears
to be early 1968; it is different from a live "Velvet" from 1969 that was
previously known to discographers.
Sun Ra, piano; prob. Bernard Pettaway, trombone; Robert Northern, French
horn; Marshall Allen, alto sax; Danny Davis, alto sax; John Gilmore, tenor
sax; Pat Patrick, baritone sax; Ronnie Boykins, bass; James Jacson, log
drums, flute; Clifford Jarvis, drums. (I will have to listen again for
additional percussion, and for Robert Cummings' bass clarinet, but the
above instruments are all definitely audible).
There are solos by Pat Patrick (the piece is almost a feature number for
him), Robert Northern, and Sun Ra.
The piece starts with a "space chord" from the Arkestra; there is an
improvised ensemble; then a long, far-out solo by Danny Davis, alto sax;
then piano and percussion are added; the alto sax continues with much
percussion; a new ensemble with high-register tenor sax, both alto saxes,
French horn, baritone sax, and flute comes in, and the cassette ends as
this ensemble is dropping down in volume.
In the mid and late-1960s, Sun Ra would often quote a familiar composition
as a theme just at the beginning or the end of a series of free
improvisations. The final three minutes of "Joy" could be more free
improvisation, or they could move into the theme of "El Is a Sound of Joy,"
or possibly another Sun Ra tune like "Tapestry from an Asteroid" (when the
words to this composition are sung, the last two words are "space joy").