Performance Review: Sun Ra at the Savoy John Gilmore stood up amidst a düiigerously varied array of musical nstruinenis and piayed ;i siunning, stately solo fanfare on oboe arresting enough to charm a snake from a basket. Moments later sevcial'danceis glided up like sulicitous tugboafs and ushered in the starship's captain himself. Tliey were all pleased to announce tluii iliev were ■"opening up the dbors to the outerSpace cmploymont agency." ('ould therc be any doubt that Sun Ra and lus SplarMyth-Science Astro-lnt'inity Arkestia IkicI laiuled in Detroit? Ve had the opportunity to dig (hem Fiiday iiiglu. Jamiary 10. during a six-day engagement al the recent ty opened Savoy which has replacetJ ihe Rainbow Room n Detroit 's Shelby Hotel. Vurious enlrepeneurs lepreseniative of the DetroitAnn Arbor cultuial axis arrange lor Ra and his Arkestra to grace tliis area wilh tlteir presentie twice 01 I MU IC LU Cl i y cji . i yui mi; me ui ai ui i ll y s.n :, i vt v,l i i uiciii 1 1 ve wi ai a i iii iv. .■ iiiiu i ■ li vv. always come away inspíred. And yol n certain sitiuitions ihere's been a sameness a bou! lite material ilie band has performed (if Sun Ra's Greatest Hits is ever collected you'll be Mire ín find "Space Is The Place" side I cul I .) Sun Ra n ll)75. huw ; ever, has come around. f": lis neyer easy lo describe an Arkestra performance, h is a disciptined, total sensory ;iss;iuh conducted by close u 20 musicians and dancers and singers and is besi experienced (likt anything elsè) first-hand. liut . . . years belore San Francisco 's mixed medhi rock shows, Sun Ra had incorporated light shows into his constructions. He's always been a pioneer in electionic musical effeets, too, aod as early as !c)53 had invented an electionic keyboard instrument. During the Sixties. Ra became the t'irst "jazz" niusician to master the Moog synthesizer and lo intégrate it into a band with traditional homs and rhythms. We were told trom the stage thal "it'sa planetary music" and that's true enough. Listen and you can hear África and Harlem. be-bop and thythm and blues. Kgypt and Ellington, and sounds thal are decidedly extra-leirestrial in origin. What's new these days is the tact that Ra has I ) augmented the band witli two, count 'em.greal electric guilarists, one ofwhom isslm'ply the firsl pgst-Hendrix guitar feedback master Tve heard and 2) added a new male vocalist who is closer in voice and niannei to Sly Stone than to Ra's avant-gaidc tiadition. Also. tlte Arkestra plays. lor the first time l've heard, clearly defined. beginning and end, tunes. Leaving places to clap and catch one's breatli. It doesn't effectively alter what is essentially an unbroken 4-hour performance there are no glossy rockstar raps to listen to hut the idea ota break indicares that Ra might jusl be interested in packaging his message in a slightly more accessiblc w;iy. There were. in Fact, 3 or 4 very Inimmable. funky tunes thal witli a liltle ediling one could hear very easily on ('KLW. Fui all iluil (he high (reully!) point ol'lhe evening was when.one at'ter another, eacli ofaboul 8 musiciansgol lo solo. Really solo. The greal John Gilniore played his tenor directly into Goü's ear, and proved thal líe eontinues lo be one of the tew remaining giants siül concentiating on wluit John Colt rune cal led "the power hom". Although there wasn'l a solo ihat wasn'l ulterly unearthly. I just have to ment ion the sweet obseeniJies Akh Tul libah wreaked upon his Frencli Hom. ol all tliings. and the thunder plucked by Detroit's own Shot)-be-doo from his big bass. Shoo-bee was sitiing in with the Arkestia ;md was powerfuly, invenUve and humorous all evcning long. I suppose l'm very naive bul l'm always amaed and disüppuinted wlion I go to see Ra and don' I find folks lined up around the bloek wailing (o gel in and hanging l'iom llie ralléis msule If you contend thal music, or theatei . ot dance, or astrology is an irreplaceable part ot your lite then you mustn't evei deny youisell the chance to dig Sun Ra and lus Arkestia live. In the ineantime. leineinbei Io support those clubs, like the Sa voy, thal book Ka and uther unnalinal acts and io icquest the Arkestra's niusic ol your tavorite disc jockey so thai you'll he icady the next time these humble, happy shamans are around.
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