Friday, November 28, 2014

Sun Ra in 2014

2014 has been the centenary of Sun Ra's earthly arrival, so there's been a lot of web activity acknowledging this event.  It's been nice to see the attention, as sporadic as it ultimately turns out to be (in spite of nothing really ever going away anymore, the web has a short attention span). If you're on the Saturn listserv, you've already seen a lot of these, but I thought I'd put together some of the best of these recent pieces.

Three of the best overviews have appeared in the Guardian, in South Side Weekly, and on the NPR jazz blog. An excellent in-depth history of Ra's early years on earth (in Birmingham, Alabama) appears in a four-part series with new research and rare photos, The Magic Citizen, by Burgin Mathews. Some nice overviews of Ra's oeuvre include the ones from Perfect Sound Forever (Part I and  Part II), Fact, and, focusing on the '70s, NPR.

What's really amazed me is the acceleration of new Ra releases over the last decade. Surprises keep on coming. With the advent of the iTunes Ra remaster program, there's been a bounty of unreleased nuggets from all across his career. Christopher Eddy and Stephen Antonelli's excellent blog Sun Ra Arkive has done an excellent job of keeping track of the new releases, even going so far as to put out mastering comparisons of every known version (original Saturn vinyl, Evidence CDs, vinyl reissues, iTunes versions) of many of the tracks: here, here, and here.

The Sun Ra Arkive also featured an excellent interview with Irwin Chusid, administrator of the newly incorporated Sun Ra LLC, who has worked closely with Sun Ra archivist Michael Anderson ("the Good Doctor") on the reissue.

A nice compendium of links appears here, and a fascinating finding aid details many of the yet-to-be-released treasures from the collection amassed by John Corbett in Chicago, The Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection, sound recordings and other material, 1950-1993. Tantalizing.

Finally, at some point, there will hopefully be content at the new Sun site, which claims to be "a full clearinghouse of information about the world's foremost Afro-Futurist Genius." That remains to be seen; we can only hope! In the meanwhile, there is still the amazing backlog of writing about Sun Ra by Rodger Coleman, collectively known as Sun Ra Sunday. Happy listening!

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