Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Herman Poole Blount, AKA Sun Ra

"Not to be confused with the Egyptian god Ra", says the Wikipedia entry. Its quite difficult not to confuse this legendary figure with a god.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914, Sun Ra always pushed the limits musically. He did it all. Sometimes he'd play piano / keyboard solos, sometimes he'd be with a traditional quartet doing ragtime, swing, or bebop. I was always fond of the bizarre free jazz sounds and vocal incantations that seemed to conjure aliens from what he seemed to think was his home planet.

Beyond the jazz music, he was also one of the first artists to incorporate experimentation with electronic keyboards. In the black and white video below, its shocking when you suddenly hear that virtual sound. It creates a confusion in your mind, a sort of retro-futurist synesthesia.

Until his death in 1993, he continued to play as often as possible and just got further and further out. The bandleader Marshall Allen has kept the Sun Ra Arkestra going. To this day, you can go see them perform and still feel the spirit of the great otherworldly one himself.

"I'm playing dark history. It's beyond black. I'm dealing with the dark things of the cosmos." 

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