Disco Not Disco

Sun Ra and his Arkestra
Disco 3000
Saturn : 1978

Sun Ra, piano, organ, drum box, Crumar Mainman; Luqman Ali, drums.

“Be warned: Sun Ra is a prophet, and you mock or scoff at him at your peril.” -John Litweiler, The Freedom Principle

Chilly Jay Chill: We usually post more than one song, but we think this track deserves your undivided attention. We often find ourselves tempted to collect a lot of great stuff without actually spending the time to, you know, listen to it. But you’ll want to give this at least a few spins pronto.

Prof. Drew Le Drew: This track leaves me almost speechless. It’s… what? Minimalist breakbeat techno meets monster dub groove?

CJC: Pulp has a rather excellent song titled “Disco 2000.” But truly, Ra is running millennial circles around them with his Disco 3000 joint.

DLD: And he’s still about 50 years ahead of everybody else. In many ways, even today’s most cutting-edge music hasn’t caught up with this. Aphex Twin could’ve copped most of his ideas off this track and still come back for seconds. It’s… what? Afro-glitch trance exotica?

CJC: You can hear a serious minimalist influence — echoes of Terry Riley’s Rainbow in Curved Air in Ra’s hypnotic organ drones — but this is darker, more textured, laced with serious electronics. The rhythms are insanely forward-looking.

DLD: A lot of Ra nods to the past in fairly recognizable ways, but it’s hard to hear the jazz antecedants in “Cosmo-Aliens.” It’s there in the melody, I guess, but the overall tone and instrumentation are so otherworldly. It’s… what? Space-rock psychotronica?

CJC: I wonder if there’s some actual disco in the DNA of this track. Maybe Ra was inspired by some Giorgio Moroder and/or Kraftwerk and then took it to another dimension.

DLD: It wouldn’t sound out of place over at 20 Jazz Funk Greats. It’s… what? Avant-rock dance-blogtastical?

CJC: Yes. Love that site. It also harkens slightly to the recent Elaste - Slow Motion Disco compilation, which featured “Originals from the Cosmic Era.” Meaning Italian disco from the late 70s. Of course this Ra track is far more cosmic.

DLD: Interestingly, “Dance of the Cosmo-Aliens” was recorded live in Italy around that time. So who knows.

CJC: But let’s face it: Basically we’re just offering possible sign posts and entry points to the music. Wildly pointing our fingers in various directions hoping that one will help folks connect with this.

DLD: Just listen to the track. It’s… what? Eleven minutes of boop-bip jungle bop. It’ll tell you all you need to know.

@ & % ! $ * ? > ~ $ &Â

Waxophilic types may be interested to know that this album was somewhat recently reissued on high-grade vinyl, by Art Yard. See Honest Jon’s store for consumer possibilities. May be too late, though.

Re “Crumar Mainman,” who has on occasion been cited as an additional player on this disk (and on Media Dreams, which draws from the same concert): it is a synthesizer — a seemingly very rare synth — produced by the Crumar company. Looking at synthmuseum.com, and other spots, it would appear possible that the instrument Ra used was in fact a Crumar Multiman, but we await further clarification in the comments, as possible.

Category Sun Ra

27 Responses to Disco Not Disco

  1. wow _ The Sun King !

  2. Probably one of my favourite Sun Ra periods this, as uncategorisable as you suggest. I’m off to give Disco 3000 and Media Dreams another spin…

  3. re: the Disco-ness, keep in mind the release date is 1978 — if a spaceways stranded alien walked into a garage today and had to explain to the mechanic the purpose of the part they needed fixed, do you suppose they’d call it by the name they gave it, or would they try to phrase it into terms more familiar?

    In 1978, not many people knew terms like “techno-trance” but if we could jump ahead 1993 years from now and go out to a ‘dance club’, it’s my guess what we’d hear will resemble Disco 3000 far more than it resembles anything heard today on dance-tv.

  4. I did a five week long chore of digitizing 300 jazz lps into high end mp3 files and while I sat there I’d reread old liner notes and look to clues about producer quality.

    This rekindled my respect for crusty Ed Michel as the best and most honest. He helped Sun Ra prepare the old chestnut Space is the place, did the studio work for the late Alice Coltran on all the Impulse titles, fixed the tape mess of Tijuana Moods and did so much more.

    All this while working for the shark pit music biz inhabited by powerful dunces like Steve Backer who didn’t Learn that Steve Lacy is a ‘white’ fellow until Ed pointed it out in the 1990’s.

    My shorter point is that the Crumar citation may well be a typo as the liner notes and credits on these documents tend toward sloppy.

  5. Thanks, Chris. As someone whose early jazz education consisted solely of reading liner notes while spinning records from 3am to 6am at a college radio station, I can agree that there are at least occasional lapses.

    Ed Michel comes across well in the Ashley Kahn Impulse book. Though it’s sort of a book-cum-annual-report, so no one really looks that bad, Backer included.

  6. sidenote on liner notes– amazing that Blue Note couldn’t spend a tiny bit of time researching the personnel and composer for the amazing “Jim Crow” on certainly one of the top ten strangest “jazz” albums of all time, Dolphy’s Other Aspects. Lo and behold it turns out the composer is none other than Bob James, the piece is actually titled Personal Statement, and the vocalist is a countertenor named David Schwartz, not a woman, as is often mistakenly claimed. How could a label actually release such an incredible composition and performance and print on the jacket “unknown personnel”? James Newton (whatver happened to him anyway?) was the producer of that release and while it’s great that it got out there, it says a lot about the music that it was so sloppily done.

    End of rant. Grooving to Sun Ra. I feel better now.


  7. Thanks, Peter. Would be sort of interesting to compile (or maybe just see) a list of notable liner note gaffes. Most likely there’s already a blog doing just this…

  8. Amazing. Gorgeous. Chillâ??d.

  9. “James Newton (whatver happened to him anyway?)”

    Until recently he was leading the Luckman Jazz Orchestra, but he took off for Europe to do some composing, and it’s currently being led by Charles Owens.

    He’s still making incredible music under the radar, and there’s an enourmous amount of it to be heard on his website

  10. Oops, that was me.

  11. I used to go on camping trips with Ed’s amazing daughter, Lisa, who went to NEC with John Medesky and Matt Shipp. So Ed visited my dumpy apartment once. He’s semi retired now.

    Ashley Kahn is the epitome of the dumb amateur tailwagger music guy. He used to be a marketing promoter for Brittany Spears and was a fixture at worthless Rolling Stone.

    His books are the latest in a long sad line of sloppy crap that passes for Jazz writing. He slaps them together and tosses em out in a publishing world that adores mediocrity.

    By comparison, Lewis Porter spent 10 years painstakingly researching his opus on John Coltrane and much of the time was given to correcting a parade of errors about nearly every phase of Coltranes life, usually started by earlier versions of Ashley.

    Music scribblers in Jazz and Pop tend to be editorialists writing from a high horse when they can just ask the artist.

    My focus as a grant writer and concert presenter gave me many occasions to just chat with artists and they generally liked the questions I asked especially when compared with the unexamined assumptions served up by dim scribblers.

    This time I spent along with an unusual memory is what allows me to contribute useful insight to this board, for free. The people who get paid to do this stuff have to maintain lower standards.

  12. Oh and the absolute funniest Jazz gaffe. Impulse has their website and lists background on artists. They have an Albert Ayler page and on it is a query, probably generic, seeking information on Albert’s whereabouts so they can get in on promoting his concerts.

    I sent the URL to Giddins and it ended up in Weatherbird two years ago. They still, as far as I know, haven’t corrected the gaffe.

  13. Godoggo, just saw your most recent blog post. Good luck with whatever’s up and hope you’re back up soon. Stop by here whenever, of course.

    Chris, thanks for the thoughts, as ever.

  14. negodo:
    sorry , wrong James Newton. he is too young to have played with Dolphy. thanks D-O !

  15. Yeah, what’s up with Albert, anyway? I live in Cleveland, and he doesn’t even play here anymore!

  16. Sun Ra sideman Pat Patrick’s son is now the governer of Mass. . i wonder if any SunRa guys visit the mansion?

  17. i had a 1966 Batman LP with Sun RA, John Marshall, John gilmore, and the Blues Project members as the session musicians. don’t buy it for the music. nothin special. it’s a novelty at best. goofy, but needed to be mentioned.

  18. “Itâ??sâ?¦ what?”

    Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child… ?

  19. Yeah, IT IS “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child,” which, don’t forget children, Fats Waller recorded on electric organ in 1943.

    Also there’s more than a bit of Miles’ “Rated X” floating around on this track.

    That said, it’s Ra all the way.

  20. Oh, somehow I figured that was a Dolphy tribute…

  21. oops, didn’ mean to link.

  22. …just googled… but Newton’s credited with “liner note,” not playing, I presume by “the release” Peter wasn’t referring to the recording sessions…Dolphy was a huge influence on this Newton…

    Anyway, I’ve been proseletyzing that Newton site for a while, but no-one ever seems to click! I guarantee you’ll be blown away if you do (aside from the ongoing stream, there are both samples and complete tracks on the “Discography” page).

  23. BTW the very first Luckman Jazz Orchestra concert under Newton’s baton was Mostly Dolphy

    Fuck me, I’m a fan.

    Just a figure of speech.

  24. i just sent an email to my beloved friend, sun-ra lover, after listening to the track:

    listen to this track, full through
    (“dance of the cosmo aliens”)
    unless of course you already know it. Then: i hate you for never slapping my veins and shooting it into them. slow and easy.

  25. Mwanji and djll, thanks for the gospel pull; nice. You, like Ra, know your antecedents.

  26. i clicked mr. godoggo.
    James Newton [the king of jazz flute ] did some trio lps with Abdul Wadud and Anthony Davis that are also quite good. hmm Mr Davis doesn’t get mentioned much either huh? another great . Mr Wadud as well. there are too many to count! my recent fave ‘discovery': Albrecht Maurer / Norbert Rodenkirchen . cut and paste into the wfmu search engine. wfmu link in column to the right> wow!

  27. too many to count indeed! but we’ve got something special in the works on mr. davis and hopefully it’ll be coming soon…