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SUN RA

LEGACY

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”People need music from another sphere, and I got that. That’s why a lot of commercial folks have blocked me,” avant-garde jazzman Sun Ra believed. His ”super, ultimate thing” was always just up ahead-joyous, transcendental music that would help expand people’s souls, connecting them with one another and their Creator. ”I wanted to give God something he’d never heard before,” said Ra, and his ricky-ticky piano playing, often charmingly at odds with the more radically modern sounds of the other musicians in his ”Arkestra,” was like nothing else. The flamboyantly garbed troupe-sometimes including dancers and acrobats-moved with ease from formless free jazz to classic swing. Ra died May 30 in Birmingham, Ala., where, sources say, he was born in 1910, 1914, or 1928, to parents named either Blount or Arman. The inscrutable Ra said once that although his parents claimed he was born in Birmingham, he had always known, deep down, that ”I’m from somewhere else. I’m a citizen of the omniverse. I’m an angel.” Recommended recordings: Jazz in Silhouette (Evidence), Sunrise in Different Dimensions (Hat Art), Strange Celestial Road (Rounder). Video: Mystery, Mr. Ra (1984, Rhapsody).

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