Jelly Home

all the articles, back to 1995

what’s Jelly got to do with it?

The Jelly Jar
factoids, jokes & links

search / tips


Buy now at

Love In Outer Space,  Knitting Factory Works CD KFW 183, 1995 (70:49)

Raw Ra, rah!

"I view the work of Sun Ra as essential, as an essential component that must be experienced as part of moving into the construct of the next thousand years."–Anthony Braxton

What, asks Myth-Science’s founder Reuben Radding, happened to the music of skewed mystic band leader Sun Ra? Why isn’t it performed today like the music of Monk, Ellington or Mingus? Why not, indeed? For my part, I’m hard pressed to name a Ra tune, let alone hum a few bars.

The critics are little help. In James Lincoln Collier’s  The Making of Jazz: A Comprehensive History, Ra merits hardly more than a footnote in which Collier concedes that Ra is "sometimes considered a jazz musician." On the other hand, John Corbett, a regular contributor to  Downbeat and  Option, weighs in with, "In a just world, the musical significance of Sun Ra and his Arkestra would be beyond dispute." Whom are we to believe? Surely the meter swings less wildly on the subject of Ellington or Monk.

Ra’s own unconventionality–his claimed Saturn citizenship and insistence that he was not from this place–did little to advance his cause (although the same gig worked wonders for George Clinton–no one took  him seriously). And maybe he just hasn’t been gone long enough yet for us to celebrate his music without guilt for not rewarding him while he was here (Ra died in 1993 at the age of 79).

Thankfully, Reuben Radding and Myth-Science brood less on the subject, and instead have done something about it. Radding assembled what he calls this "kind of strange bar band" to play Sun Ra compositions simply because he loves the music. He goes to pains to let us know that this is not a tribute band. This no Arkestra recreation complete with costumes, chant and dance. It is simply a collection of strong musical personalities dedicated to the singular sound of Sun Ra.

This recording captures the band live at the Knitting Factory in New York City, Halloween 1995 before what sounds like a small, but appreciative crowd. The sound is raw and real, somewhere between a you-are-there ambience and a board tape. True to form, the quintet does not sound like the Arkestra. This is no big band. The textures are limited to the instruments on hand–no familiar piano, brass, synthesizers or jungle drums.

What you get instead is the Ra vibe, and plenty of it. The players are energetic, inspired, and they sound like they’re actually having fun–honest fun, no self-deprecating irony here. Saxophones take flight over thumping bass grooves, while a truly fascinating Anthony Coleman stuccos the place on the organ. The tunes reach back to ’50s era Ra covering swing, bop and ballad and, of course, just flat out space. They’re all performed with a ’90s edge, giving the whole thing the feeling of black-and-white footage shot through modern lenses, then antiqued–deliberately dated, yet crisp.

The performances are reverent, but never cautious. Tenor and alto saxes Tim Otto and Briggan Krauss do not hesitate to blow. They make joyful, unrestrained noise. And on that subject, special mention goes to organ player Anthony Coleman. More than anyone, Coleman is responsible for putting the space in the arrangements. As Radding says in the liner notes, Coleman can be a "big band, a train, a horn, a drum or a whole history of jazz, salsa and surf organ styles." I can’t argue with that. Coleman squeezes from the organ some of the most interesting sounds I’ve ever heard.

Radding can now add me to the list of people that Myth-Science have turned on to the music of Sun Ra. There’s enormous territory to explore, and an excellent place to start is John Corbett’s book  Extended Play: Sounding Off From John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein (Duke University Press, 1994). Corbett’s essay and interview with Ra provide some helpful guideposts for tackling the enormous recorded output of Sun Ra and the Arkestra.–  Jason Staczek

 Glenn Brooks says... Jason definitely knows whereof. Anthony Coleman’s bi-tonal scorched-earth organ is downright lethal!


Reuben Radding, acoustic bass; Tim Otto, tenor sax; Anthony Coleman, organ; Briggan Krauss, alto sax; Ed Ware, drums.


Recorded live at the Knitting Factory Tap Bar, October 7-8, 1995. Produced by Reuben Radding and Brett Heinz; engineered by Brett Heinz; mixed by Reuben Radding and Brett Heinz.

song titles

Discipline (Children of the Sun) • Love In Outer Space • Kingdom of Not • Love on a Faraway Planet • Space Loneliness • Springtime in Chicago • Space Fling

of related interest


Find out more about Myth-Science at the Knitting Factory web site.

Sun Ra (and His Arkestra)

With Evidence Records re-releasing his great self-produced recordings, there are, amazingly, over thirty Ra albums now in print. Where to start? Try these.

 Jazz in Silhouette, Evidence CD ECD 22012-2, 1958 (44:09)
The Arkestra comes together for one of their early, accessible, masterpieces.

 The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 1, ESP CD 1014, 1965
Often considered the best Ra, for those who like their music "outside."

 Monorails and Satellites, Evidence CD ECD 22013-2, 1966 (32:19)
This solo piano recording effectively demonstrates Ra’s influences, from boogie to swing to Latin and beyond.

Copyright © 1997 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.