Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Sun Ra, the prolific progenitor of space-is-the-place jazz, gets more of the reissue treatment

"There are other worlds they have not told you of," whispers a chorus of voices deep inside Lanquidity, the best of these releases and one of Sun Ra's high points. A combination of improvised and obviously composed pieces, the record, taken as a whole, illustrates Ra's strengths: a love of improvisation, weird gizmos and experimentation but also an appreciation of dynamics and rock-solid composition. The improvised pieces vary in mood from somber to celebratory, and the composed pieces, especially the totally funky "Where Pathways Meet," weigh a ton. But, in typical Ra fashion, the entirety sounds a bit off, a bit dizzy; like cigarette smoke in a sunbeam, Lanquidity is both chaotic and smooth, and the result is the kind of cohesion that Sun Ra tended to avoid, at least on many of the other of these reissues. When he addressed cohesion, he attacked it with a vigor similar to that with which he attacked that Moog.

Because of Sun Ra's need to document so much of his music, it's going to take decades to fully comprehend the body of work he left behind. Occasionally, though, one of these reissues arrives that adds to the mystique but, because of the sheer volume, is in danger of being buried. Lanquidity is one such recording, nearly perfect, necessary for anyone curious about jazz. "Earth is an unlikely place for me to be in the first place," Sun Ra once said, and on Lanquidity, he's not on Earth: He's way, way out there, where he belongs.

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