by Sharon Gissy
The origin of Sun Ra came about when Herman "Sonny" Blount had a transformative experience during a deep religious meditation: "My whole body changed into something else. And I went up...I wasn't in human form. I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn. They teleported me and I was down on stage with them. I would speak [through music], and the world would listen. That's what they told me." Determined to fulfill the prophecy, Blount re-christened himself Le Sony'r Ra and began his decades-long creative output of experimental music. Combining elements of bebop, modal jazz, free improvisation, and otherworldly sounds, Sun Ra compiled one of the most unique and unclassifiable catalogs in recorded music.
Sun Ra was also known for his powerful and visceral live performances, and Modern Harmonic is soon to release a live event recorded at the Inter-Media Arts Center in New York on April 20, 1991. Recorded just two years before Sun Ra's "Earthly departure," the previously unreleased live recording showcases his proficient keyboard work as well as the stunning vocal work of the talented Arkestra he surrounded himself with. Featuring performances by June Tyson, Michael Ray, T.C. Carney, James Jacson, and John Gilmore, this recording by the NYC radio station WNYC captures the Arkestra at the height of its splendor. You can check out some of the music here.