Archive for Sun Ra

Sun Ra and the hot chicks!

Posted in documents, jazz, Sun Ra with tags , , , , on June 15, 2014 by crownpropeller


A while ago while searching for hot girlie magazines Sun Ra related items on ebay I was surprised that the March 1969 issue of Swank magazine showed up in my search.

swank_cover

Sex and space music: “Swank”, March 1969

I have applied a little censorship to the mag’s front page here as this blog might be visited by minors. Also, the woman pictured on the cover might not be happy to see herself dressed that way again.

I bought the magazine because I was very much curious what space jazz master Sun Ra was doing in between the “Teen-Age Sex Queen Of Sweden” and “Love Potions And Aphrodisiacs!”.  Adding to my curiousity was the fact that being from March 1969 (the “Rolling Stone” with the Sun Ra cover shot of  was the April 1969 issue) this must be a quite early mention of Ra in an US-wide distributed non-specialist magazine. So what’s inside?

Continue reading

Marshall Allen / Kash Killion: “Two Stars In The Universe”

Posted in 33 rpm, Free Jazz, jazz, Marshall Allen, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2014 by crownpropeller

As vaguely announced at the end of this post, my friend Hubi and me along with sound engineer Dario went to Poschiavo in summer 2012 to see the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Maestro Marshall Allen and make a recording of  Allen to be released on a limited edition vinyl LP.

Crown Propeller’s blog announces that this record, “Two Stars in The Universe”, featuring duets by Marshall Allen with masterful cellist, bolon/bolong and sarangi player Kash Killion, will now be released as Little Rocket Records LP001 on May 22nd!

So what does it sound like? Have a glimpse at our little  promotion video to get an idea:

Note though, that the sound on all video clips in this blog post is directly from the camera’s microphone. The LP sounds much better. A short mp3 excerpt from the original master can be had on request.

cover-goldLittle Rocket LP 001 will be released on May 22nd, 2014

So how did this come to happen? My friend Hubi  and me are long time devotees of that cosmic being called Sun Ra. And we both developed a deep love for the idiosyncratic sound of  alto saxophonist and now Arkestra leader Marshall Allen.

So when in spring of 2012 we heard that the Arkestra will be accompanying two theatrical productions during three days at the Uncool Festival  in Poschiavo (at the the south-eastern end of Switzerland), we had the idea to record Allen playing solo, since we wanted  to capture his sound pure and unaccompanied. Since we both are also what you would call vinyl junkies it was decided there and then that we will be trying to release a limited edition vinyl LP and found a little record company that will exist until the copies are sold out.

allen:killion_black_gold

Marshall Allen and Kash Killion in Poschiavo, June 21, 2012

We decided to try to reach Marshall via Cornelia Müller who runs the Uncool Festival. Finally a week before the Poschiavo event,  Marshall let us know through Cornelia that he was ready and willing. Cornelia promised to get a room organized for thursday, June 21. So Hubi, me and our engineer Dario on wednesday made the six hour car ride to see the Arkestra’s evening show and record Marshall the next day.

road

On the way to Poschiavo in the beautiful Poschiavo valley

I had become sick a day right before our trip and had a bad fever when we arrived in Poschiavo and were told by Cornelia that it was hard to organize a room and that maybe we should ask around the small village for a room to record in on the next morning. I thought: ok, this is the end of our little adventure, as I could not imagine knocking at unsuspecting people’s doors and asking them if we could maybe record some free jazz in there barn or their living room. Nonetheless I managed to enjoy the three hour Arkestra gig that evening. Marshall – at that time 88 years old – was blowing, directing the band, singing, dancing all evening through without ever sitting down for a minute – clearly music is his fuel. Excerpts from that concert can be found here.

marshall_on_stageMarshall Allen fronting the Arkestra in Poschiavo, June 20, 2012.

marshall_on_stage_2Marshall Allen on stage in Poschiavo, June 20, 2012.

I had a sleepless, fevery night and on the next morning Dario, our italian speaking and good looking sound engineer, talked a hotel maid into letting us use the Hotel’s diner room. But then on our way to breakfast we met Cornelia again who told us that she managed to get a room anyway and Marshall would be ready to meet us at 12 o’ clock.

 

spazioLo Spazio in Poschiavo

The room turned out to be Cornelia’s living room in her house and artists’ space “Lo Spazio”. The room had very beautiful acoustics – so we were happy. But then Marshall appeared and told us he really was not in the mood for playing solo since he needs (an)other person(s) to react to: “I am a band musician”. So this again sounded like the end of it – but we had the  idea to ask Marshall if there is someone in the band he’d like to record in a duo context with. Marshall said that yes, he’d like to record with Kash Killion who is playing cello with the Arkestra on and off since 1991. This sounded very promising to us, so we gathered some more cash together to be able to pay Kash something as well.

dario_allen

Sound engineer “Il Nuovo Presidente” Dario and Marshall Allen

We phoned Kash who was ready to come over from his hotel at once and brought along his cello, a Sarangi – the queen of indian instruments because it is so close to the human voice (Killion has studied  the instrument with the great indian master Ali Akbar Khan) – as well as a Bolong (also spelled Bolon) – a harp from west africa that also functions as a percussive instrument when you hit the neck and the gourd.

setting_upSetting up: Dario, Marshall Allen and Kash Killion in Poschiavo, June 21, 2012.

Marshall and Kash played beautiful improvised music for two and a half hours without ever talking about what to play next and visibly having fun all the while. We just sat there in awe not daring to interfere or make any suggestions like true producers are supposed to do (or are they?).

sessionOff we go: Marshall Allen and Kash Killion at the Little Rocket Records
recording session, Poschiavo, June 21, 2012.

Here’s a little view into the recording session, Marshall Allen on flute and Kash Killion on Sarangi playing an improvisation they later titled “India Reflections”:

happyIt’s done: Marshall Allen, Armin Büttner, Hubi Horst and Kash Killion,
Poschiavo, June 21, 2012.

¨allenkilliondarioAfter the session: Marshall Allen, Dario and Kash Killion

 Apart from choosing the tracks for release we did not do any editing or massive post production. We just choose complete tracks as Dario recorded all of this so perfectly – standing in a half bowed, body devastating position in front of the musicians all this time, a little digital recorder in his hands.

“Two Stars in The Universe” as the LP was titled by Marshall and Kash is a beautiful, surprisingly quiet and moody but also very joyful record of many colors. Besides alto saxophone and flute Marshall also plays one of those old small Casio keyboards. I always think he is channeling messages from Sun Ra with it. If you listen to his Casio playing on “Cosmic Blues-Life Of Two”: Hearing the rattling sound of it’s keys struck by Marshall, you’ll notice that he uses the same fluttering up and down hand movements  that he uses when producing the freaky alto sounds he is known for. Here is an excerpt from “Cosmo Blues-Life of Two”:

 

I had to be back at the office the next day, so we had to return. But after I told my girlfriend about the experience, she went down to Poschiavo for the last Arkestra show a day later. After the – again very long concert – Marshall and Kash Killion sat down stage front after most people had already left and played kora and bolon for a while. You can see again that they really enjoy playing together:


(Video courtesy of The Sun Ra Arkestra)

All 250 copies of the 180 gram vinyl  LP  “Two Stars In The Universe” have handprinted (silk-screened) covers. Some are printed in gold on black, some in silver, blue, or white, we think it came out very nice. Here is a little clip from the silk-screening process. Music for this video is an excerpt from an unreleased track, recorded with a photo camera after session for the LP had already ended.

silk_screenBeautifully designed (thanks, M.!!!) and freshly silk-screened

Unfortunately this did not make the thing cheap. This beauty will cost 35 Dollars (postage – which is high – not included). This will hopefully allow us to get back our expenses if nothing more.

The record will be officially released at the Arkestra concert in Zurich on May 22nd, Sun Ra’s 100th Arrival-on-Earth-Jubilee. Since there is no real distribution, the way to go is contact me directly if one wants to obtain a copy. Please use the comment section of this post to get in contact.

Enjoy!

Chicago Tenor Sax (second installment)

Posted in 78 rpm, Chicago Tenor Sax, Eddie Johnson, Gene Wright, jazz, John Neely, Johnny (Johnnie) Pate, King Fleming, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2013 by crownpropeller

Welcome to the second installment of the loose series featuring some of the jazz and r’n’b tenor saxophonists that played in the clubs of Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s.

Although when talking about tenor saxophonists from Chicago one usually thinks of the Lester Young school of playing, relaxed, cool and way behind the beat, this town definitely had more to offer.

defender_aug_2_52

Eddie Johnson featured with the Jo Pernell Combo.
Chicago Defender, August 2, 1952.
From Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”.

The late Eddie Johnson (1920–2010) for example cited Lester Young as his greatest influence, yet that is not too obvious if you listen to his records. You can read all about Eddie Johnson at the page dedicated to him at at the Red Saunders Research Foundation by the way. After playing in lesser known bands for a while, Johnson joined Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five in early 1947, staying until the end of the year.  In 1951 and 1952 he recorded some sides for Chess Records, before the label began to concentrate  on Blues. In 1958 Johnson recorded as a sideman in a large James Moody group, and in 1964 he replaced Paul Gonsalves in the Duke Ellington Orchestra from time to time, when Gonsaves had problems related to substance abuse. After his last session for Chess in 1952, it took almost thirty years before Johnson recorded under his name again – for Chicago based Nessa Records. (he also recorded under his own name for Delmark in 1999).

But here’s Eddie in his younger days. “Twin Rock”, played by  Johnson (ts), Claude Jones (p), Johnny Pate (b) and  Oliver Coleman (d), was recorded for Chess at the Universal Studios in Chicago on September 12 1952. Billboard had this to say: “Instrumental is carried nicely by Johnson’s sax. It’s pleasant enough and could get some juke action”. So judge for yourself:

The next track I am offering you is special for different reasons. Eugene “Gene” Wright, later bassist with Dave Brubeck’s Quartet, had a nice band called Eugene Wright and his Dukes of Swing for a while in the 1940s. Red Holloway played with the Dukes of Swing as did Yuseef Lateef (at that time still known as Bill Evans). Neither Holloway nor Lateef were on the session from which I am offering you a piece here. But the band’s arranger and pianist who is playing on “Music Goes Round And Round” is none other than Sonny Blount – later known as Sun Ra! Another interesting figure also on this session is trumpeter Hobart Dotson – who later recorded with Sun Ra and with Charlie Mingus (somebody should definitely do an english language Wikipedia entry for Dotson!)

defender_dec_18_48From Chicago Defender, December 18, 1948. Wonder who is who?

But what about the tenor saxophonist we can hear here? His name is Melvin Scott. That you may never had heard of him before may well be based on the fact that this seems to be his only recorded session. On the  Willie Jones page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation, you can find some photos featuring Scott.

“Music Goes Round And Round” was recorded in December 1948 for Aristocrat Records, the forerunner of Chess Records. Billboard wrote: “A jump version of the Riley-Farley japery. It’s old enough – and the times are musically out of joint enough – to come back. Who knows?”

Melvin Scott only has a few bars here before baritonist Van Kelly takes over, but these bars sure are hot:

Part 3 of the second installment comes from a favourite of mine, the unjustly forgotten tenor player John Neely (1930–1994):

hamP_with_neelyJohn Neely (right) with Lionel Hamton, at Kunsthaus Luzern,
March 1, 1961. From concert review in “Luzerner Neue Nachrichten”

Neely’s fluid, light hearted and relaxed phrasing is more typical of the style saxophonists from Chicago are known for. You can hear that well on Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump” as recorded by the band of pianist King Fleming around March 1954. You’ll hear John Neely, King Fleming, bassist Russell Williams and drummer Aubrie Jones. The singing is possibly by the band members except for the female voice who probably is Lorez Alexandria or Ethel Duncan. You can find more information about this session on the King Fleming page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation where there also some photos of John Neely:

There are very few solos known by Neely – and all are great. My friend, the late jazz researcher Otto Flückiger heard Neely when Neely was in Lionel Hampton’s orchestra during its 1961 European tour – and loved his playing right away. It took 36 years before Otto was to hear another John Neely solo again – King Fleming had told Robert Campbell that it was John Neely playing those wonderful lines on Fleming’s Blue Lake outing.

I love this record so much that I had to acquire the red wax 45rpm when it turned up for sale:

fleming_1_o_clockFrom the Crown Propeller Collection

But although it looks gorgeous, the 78rpm sounds much better, so I put that one up.

Someday – I hope soon – I will do a posting on Neely, presenting you two solos with the Hampton band which Mario Schneeberger and me recently discovered to be by Neely.And of course watch this space for further installments of the Chicago Tenor Sax series (go here to read and hear the first part)!

Enjoy!

Eddie Chamblee and some unidentified people

Posted in documents, Eddie Chamblee, Lionel Hampton, unidentified photographs with tags , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by crownpropeller

I love to look on ebay for jazz or early r’n’b related memorabilia from time to time. A few weeks ago, being a little bored, I started to browse to see if any interesting photographs would come up. Then suddenly I recognized tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee (1920–1999) one one of the stamp sized pictures you see in an ebay listing. The seller was offering the photo under the heading “photo of unidentified black musicians” and I had the luck to get it for the pricely sum of $5.

chamblee_and_others_blog

Eddie Chamblee (left) and two unidentified persons, circa mid 50s.
Photographer unknown

Comparing with other photos of Chamblee I would say it is from the mid 1950s. The other two men look very familiar to me. Does anyone know, who these two might be? Maybe they are members of Lionel Hampton’s band, Chamblee played with Hampton around 1955/1956. They look familiar, but I am not able to place them.

You might as well have some music while thinking about who these men may be. Here is Eddie Chamblee and his band playing Julian Priester’s composition “Swing A Little Taste”.

This was recorded January 20, 1958 in Chicago for Mercury and the band members are:  Fortunatus “Fip” Ricard (tp) Julian Priester (tb) Eddie Chamblee (ts,vcl) Charles Davis (bar) Jack Wilson (p) Robert Wilson (b) James Slaughter (d). And it was released on this LP:

doodlin

“Swing A Little Taste” had been recorded 18 months earlier on one of the first recording sessions of the Sun Ra Arkestra , of which Priester was a member at that time. This version was originally released on the sampler “Jazz In Transition” on the Transition label (go to Robert L. Campbell’s page about Sun Ra’s early years for more information about that session).

jit

While the label on the Transition LP gives Julian Priester as the sole composer of this tune, the Mercury LP “Doodlin” adds one “Washington” to the composer’s credit. This “Washington” is obviously the person to the right of Chamblee on the cover of  the “Doodlin” LP (no prizes for giving her full name).

I also acquired another photo from the same seller, also for $5 (it said “photo of unidentified black musicians” again). Now does anyone have an idea who this lady could be? (And no: Just the fact she is holding a trumpet does not make her Valaida Snow!) Or where and when this photograph was taken?

female_trumpet_blog

Enjoy!

Sun Ra Takes The A Train (Montreux 1976)

Posted in clips, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by crownpropeller

The 1976 European tour of Sun Ra and his Arkestra with concerts in Italy, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands did a lot for the popularity of that band from outer space among european jazz fans.  One of the reasons for this besides the impressive show that Sun Ra and band delivered, was that several state owned European TV stations filmed the concerts (or at least parts thereof).

Here is some footage from the concert in Pescara, Italy (uploaded by youtube user chieflittlenuts):

Youtube user chieflittlenuts alo uploaded the first part of the surviving footage from the Montreux concert on July 9th

As I think there can never be enough good quality Sun Ra on youtube, I have uploaded the rest of the known footage from the Montreux concert: Twelve minutes of Sun Ra and his Arkestra playing Billy Strayhorn’s “Take The A Train”. It starts with a long solo introduction by Ra and also offers a classic John Gilmore solo and lots of drumming by Clifford Jarvis.

Enjoy!

Sun Ra in Stuttgart 1990

Posted in clips, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2012 by crownpropeller

When the view outside your window looks something like this:

… which it does right now, did this afternoon, you are in desperate need of the  sun – and quick! And here you are! To warm your frozen soul here is Sun Ra and his Omniverse Ultra 21st Century playing at the Theaterhaus-Jazztage in Stuttgart, Germany, in April 1990. This again comes from an old VHS cassette in Otto Flückiger’s collection, kindly digitized by Benne Vischer.

The Arkestra on this occasion is supposed to consist of Ra himself, Ahmed Abdullah, Michael Ray and Jothan Callins on trumpet, Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Knoël Scott and James Jacson on reeds and percussion, John Ore on bass, Buster Smith and Samarai Celestial on drums, Elson Nascimento on surdo and percussion and singer June Tyson.  Despite the grainy quality: Enjoy!

The Sun Ra Arkestra in Poschiavo 2012

Posted in clips, documents, Marshall Allen, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by crownpropeller

I spent Wednesday and Thursday of last week with my friend Hubi and Hubi’s friend Dario in Poschiavo in the Graubünden part of Switzerland where the Sun Ra Arkestra under the leadership of  Marshall Allen supplied the on stage music for two theatrical plays at the Uncool Festival. I shot some video there – but in fact a lot of people did. So there is no need for me editing all this stuff now. Instead I have embedded some nice clips that I found on the youtube channel of local newspaper Giornale il Bernina. Here are some excerpts from the Wednesday evening performance of the play Oedipus: 

Continue reading

The first Sun Ra discography

Posted in Discography, Sun Ra with tags , , , on March 30, 2012 by crownpropeller

The up to now last and most complete (it can NEVER be totally complete as the universe has endless possibilities) attempt to write a discography of the recorded works of cosmo-music master Sun Ra, is still “The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra” by Robert L. Campbell. Be sure to get the 2nd edition though, cowritten by Chris Trent. It’s still available through Cadence or at Amazon.

Of course Robert and Chris did not start from scratch. Over the years there have been many Sun Ra discographies written by such knowledgeable people as Julian Vein, Bert Vuijsje, Erik Raben, Vlad Simosko, Tilman Stahl, Jean Buzelin & Alain-René Hardy, Mark Webber, Hartmut Geerken.

But the first person to be as fascinated by Sun Ra’s mixture of the very old and the very tomorrow as to publish a listing of his work seems to have been Otto Flückiger whose Sun Ra discography appeared in the March 1961 issue of “jazz-statistics”.

I once asked Otto how he got to know Ra’s music, he surely must have been the first person who had heard this music in switzerland. Unfortunately I did not write down what he told me, but I seem to remember that in the late fifties a friend of his brought a Sun Ra LP back from a trip to the USA as a present for Otto: “Jazz In Transition” on the Transition label. And the music fascinated him right away. I especially remember Otto mentioning “their enthusiasm” as a reason. Otto then somehow managed to find out the address of Saturn Records. And I guess he send them some money in exchange for records he might get for the amount . That is how he got his “Jazz In Silhouette” LP -it was a true first pressing, he traded it later – as well as some 45rpms and a Saturn Records catalogue.

“jazz-statistics” was a homemade discographical magazine published by Otto himself. Jazz fans interested in discographical data could subscribe to it and  received from 12 to 24 pages of discographical data four times a year.  Kurt Mohr, the father of r’n’b discography, french collector Marvel Chauvard and others also published their listings there. There were comparable magazines all over europe, and they were of great help to the compilers of complete multi-volume jazz discographies like Jorgen Jepsen, Walter Bruyninckx and Tom Lord.

I do not exactly know for how long “jazz-statistics” lasted, I will look that up some time (I do also not know, when this project started, if you do the maths you get around 1956, but this may not be true).

I decided to scan the first few pages of “jazz-statistics” from March 1961 so you can see what the first ever Sun Ra discography looked like. The complete issue has sixteen pages all in all. As you see Otto made a handwritten addition on one of the pages. According to Robert Campbell, “jazz-statistics” no 22 (june) had Sun Ra additions by Michael Vogler. Otto probably wrote this addition into issue no 21. I have to look If I find issue no 22 in the archive

While regarding it, (click to enlarge), you should keep in mind, that this is more than fifty years old.  If you want to get the actual state of science regarding the years in question, go to Robert Campbell’s page “From Sonny Blount to Sun Ra: The Chicago Years”.  But still this discography solved an old riddle: Why Otto’s copy of the booklet that came with the Transition LP is cut up and missing most of the photographs. They ended up in “jazz-statistics”!

Sun Ra in Spain 1985

Posted in clips, Sun Ra with tags , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by crownpropeller

As you may have realized, this blog is mostly dealing with jazz from all periods. And of course nothing is a better bridge from the ancient times to the future than the music of Sun Ra, the cosmic messenger. When I started to listen to jazz in the mid 1980s, I was mostly fascinated by the free music of the 1960s. And it was Sun Ra that showed me how to proceed back in time in my listening pleasures. I witnessed Sun Ra leading the Arkestra five or six times from 1987 to 1990. And it was my love for Sun Ra’s music that was responsible for me and the swiss jazz researcher and collector Otto Flückiger becoming friends. I got to know Otto when I visited the Sun Ra exhibition at the Jazz Museum in Arlesheim that he had curated in the early 1990s (Otto had also written the first Sun Ra discography back in 1962!).

While going through my old VHS cassettes, I found a TV broadcast from the end of July 1985 when the Arkestra was playing in Spain at the Jazzaldia Festival in Donostia-San Sebastián (Basque Country), which I am presenting here in two parts. In part 1 Sun Ra and his Arkestra play Discipline 27-II, I’ll Wait For You, an unidentified Blues, Yeah Man!, Prelude To A Kiss, Mack The Knife

You will see and hear Sun Ra (p, syn, voc); Ronnie Brown (tp); Tyrone Hill (tb); Marshall Allen (as, fl, ob, perc); John Gilmore (ts, cl, timb, voc); Ronald Wilson (picc, ts); Danny Ray Thompson (bars, perc); Eloe Omoe (as, bcl, cacl, perc); James Jacson (bsn, fl, Ancient Egyptian Infinity Drum); Bruce Edwards (eg); Rollo Radford (double eb); Tommy “Bugs” Hunter (dr); Avreeayl Amen Ra (dr); unidentified (perc); June Tyson (voc) and an unidentified dancer.

Part 2 consists of Love In Outer Space and The Shadow World.

Blog follower Agustín Pérez was so nice as to send me the poster for the Jazzaldia 1985 festival as well as a review of  Sun Ra’s appearance. Thank you very much, Agustín!

And here is the review (pdf): ABC-1985.07.20

Enjoy!

High Speed Harris

Posted in 78 rpm, documents, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2011 by crownpropeller

Today I went through a batch of old “Jet” magazines from the collection of Otto Flückiger. Here’s a nice photo of singer Wynonie Harris from the september 4, 1958 issue, when his days of glory were long over.

To go with it, I have some music for you from Wynonie’s younger days:

This is Wynonie Harris on a rare Bullet 78 pm from my collection playing “Dig this Boogie”, recorded 1946 in Nashville. Featured on the piano is none other than Herman “Sonny” Blount, later known as extraterrestrial big band leader Sun Ra! The drummer is most probably Wynonie himself. Enjoy!

To find out more about this session, go to:

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/sunra.html

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 120 other followers