Sun Ra: Enlightenment




Sun Ra (piano)


Jazz in Silhouette (Evidence 22012)

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Sun Ra (piano),

Hobart Dotson (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), Marshall Allen, James Spaulding (alto saxes), John Gilmore (tenor sax), Pat Patrick, Charles Davis (baritone sax), Ronnie Boykins (bass), William Cochran (drums)


Composed by Sun Ra & Hobart Dotson


Recorded: Chicago, IL, 1958


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

The '70s Impulse vinyl reissues of Sun Ra's obscure Saturn recordings, and their later reappearance starting in the '90s from Evidence on CD, greatly bolstered Ra's musical credentials. Some looked upon him as a charlatan who used showmanship and smoke and mirrors to disguise what were perceived as the deficiencies of his Arkestra. However, as these recordings proved, inconsistency does not equal ineptitude. If Sun Ra's self-produced sessions had been released widely and regularly by major labels throughout his lifetime, the jazz history books might read differently, such was his all-encompassing ability to look both forward and into the past for inspiration, along what he would probably have referred to as the "space-time continuum."

Ra's 1958 band was one of his strongest assemblages, and the serene, exquisite "Enlightenment" is one of the best early Chicago-period tracks. Later, a rearranged version of this tune would become a sort of theme song for the Arkestra, with an added vocal chant to go along with all the mythology, costumes and dancing. In 1958, it simply smacks of Tadd Dameron both compositionally and in the instrumental voicings. The catchy vamps flow gracefully one into another, and it's difficult to get the entire piece out of your mind after several listens. Upon the sounding of a gong, Patrick plays the alluring theme backed by Ra's waltzing chords, Cochran's cymbal accents, and fluttering horn lines. Patrick moves into the distinctive bridge aided by additional counterlines before Dotson's fluid trumpet takes over the melody. A delightful Afro-Cuban segment is followed by Ra's sparse solo that lands somewhere between Ellington and Basie. The pulsating Latin motif is revisited prior to Dotson's subdued recital of the melody over seductive horn fillips. Dotson's final emphatic flurry caps a classic Ra performance.

Reviewer: Scott Albin


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