May 20, 2014 marked the centennial of jazz legend Sun Ra‘s arrival on planet Earth (he left in 1993). To commemorate the prolific legacy of this unique artist, the Sun Ra Music Archive has embarked on an extensive and exclusive Mastered for iTunes reissue program. The albums have been released May 20, on the Enterplanetary Koncepts label (full Sun Ra catalog can be viewed at itunes.com/SunRaMusic).
Sun Ra was “filed under jazz,” but cannot be defined by one category. Like Ellington, Brian Wilson, and Frank Zappa, Sun Ra was sui generis. He explored electronica, funk, avant-garde soundscapes, musique concrète, and songcraft, while his styles spanned hard bop, exotica, R&B, piano improv, cosmic soul, swing, doo-wop, balladry, and invented forms. Sun Ra’s catalog is unfathomably large, requiring a universe of shelf space. On his self-owned El Saturn label he released hundreds of albums, many in limited pressings, spawning a worldwide collector’s market. Many of those collectibles are now available for the first time in digital format, under license from Sun Ra LLC, owned by the heirs of the legendary musician.
The Sun Ra Mastered for iTunes releases include material culled from session and rehearsal tapes, and production and album masters. The series includes a significant amount of previously unreleased material, some stereo mixes of tracks previously available only in mono, and complete versions of tracks which had been edited for the original LPs.
The Sun Ra Music Archive, maintained by executive director Michael D. Anderson, houses an extensive library of 7-1/2 and 15 ips master tapes and session reels. Using these prime sources, Anderson has compiled 24-bit digital transfers, which have been painstakingly refined. The series rollout focuses on the first half of Sun Ra’s recording career, roughly 1956 to 1974, including many rare titles. This is a year-long project, with 21 albums slated for the May 20 launch, and dozens more to follow.
Some of the titles included in the first batch of reissues are “Supersonic Jazz” (1957), “Sun Ra Visits Planet Earth” (1958). “Angels and Demons At Play” (1965), “Interstellar Low Ways” (1966) and “Jazz in Silhouette” (1959).