Sun Ra

Discipline 27-II
Corbett vs Dempsey CD0039

Another in the seemingly limitless number of newly discovered or reissued Sun Ra sessions, 1972’s Discipline 27-II is representative in that the five tracks show off differing angles of the keyboardist/bandleader’s music. Like Stephen Leacock’s description of the fellow flinging himself on his horse and riding off in all directions, Ra was never satisfied with pursuing one musical style, when his band could incorporate a half-dozen or so references into every performance.

Following Ra most intense experimental period, this Arkestra – including eight horn players, six percussionist and four vocalists – was still jam-packed with saxophone solos from John Gilmore, Marshall Allen and others that sutured the metaphysical heft of John Coltrane’s technical explorations with the search for the intangible cosmic tones of New Thing players. Plus Ra’s keyboard arsenal, here consisting of electronic keyboard space age instruments (sic) and Moog synthesizer meant that, for instance, jingled and juddered sonic knob twists and twirls showed up alongside centred drumming and reed shrieks on “Untitled Outtake”. In contrast a track like “Discipline 8” shuttles from movie soundtrack-like accompaniment to cacophony with daubs of oscillated vibrations, muting the duck-like quacks and dog-like yelps from the other horns and Gilmore’s fiery asbestos-shredding tones. Later big band-like riffing and Afro-Cuban hand-palm pressure fight for supremacy. Fletcher Henderson-reminiscent dancing swing propelled by dual baritone saxophone vamps plus brassy color from the two trumpets shares space with Afro-futuristic vocalizing on “Neptune” as reed split tones promote and practically fuelling the spaceship voyage.

Crucially the CD’s nucleus is the nearly 24½-minute “Discipline 27-II”, with half-declaimed, half-sung choruses from many contributors, most notably vocalist June Tyson and Ra himself as sermon-spouter. As the 15-piece band sequences are scopious to the nth degree, encompassing Pentecostal funk, psychedelic swirls and stirring Swing Era vamps, a swaying theme works its way through the distended arrangement, with trumpet obbligatos and bass clarinet puffs as highlights. Punctuated with guffaws, the Ra philosophy is verbalized with enigmatic aphorism relating to self-sacrifice, and extraterrestrial rewards for those following their “altered destiny”.

Never less than interesting, Discipline 27-II may perhaps be best appreciated by those already initiated in the Ra universe. It shouldn’t be anyone’s introduction to this musical avatar, but can later on be fully appreciated as another descriptive chapter of a musical book that may be open to more interpretations and addendums then the bible, Talmud and Koran combined.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Pan Afro 2. Discipline 8 3. Neptune 4. Discipline 27-II, Parts 1-4 5. Untitled Outtake

Akh Tal Ebah (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals); Lamont Kwamie McClamb (trumpet, percussion); Marshall Allen, Danny Davis (alto saxophone, flute); John Gilmore, tenor saxophone, percussion, vocals); Pat Patrick (baritone saxophone, bass); Danny Thompson (baritone saxophone, flute); Eloe Omoe (bass clarinet, flute); Sun Ra (electronic keyboard space age instruments, Moog synthesizer, vocals); Alzo Wright, Harry Richards, Lex Humphries, Robert Underwood [Ayé Aton] (drums); Russell Branch, Stanley Morgan (percussion, congas); Space Ethnic Voices [June Tyson, Cheryl Banks, Judith Holton, Ruth Wright] (vocals)