Written By: Mike O’ Cull
Sun Ra is one of those artists listeners either get or they don’t. Ra was one of the most eccentric, free, and individual musicians to ever take a stage, to the point of claiming to be from outer space, and occupies a singular spot in the history of jazz. Free jazz like this is normally polarizing, with some hating it other falling instantly in love with it and those with free minds will enjoy this release more than strict formalists.
This set is a remastered and expanded edition of Ra’s 1971 original release and shows Ra and his two Moog synths at the top of his outside form along with Marshall Allen on flute, piccolo, and alto, John Gilmore on drums, and Danny Davis on alto and clarinet. The session is pretty free, with some tracks like the title composition being only synth and drums. Other tracks, though, like “The Perfect Man (Alternate Version #2), swing hard and weird and make perfect sense as soon as you hear them.
Ra was one of the most unique practitioners of the Moog synthesizer the Universe ever produced and threw it right into the mix with more traditional jazz instruments and carved out a more extreme musical position than even Miles Davis did with “Bitches Brew.” Witness the final track, the aptly-named “Space Probe.” It is just under eighteen minutes of full-on synth freak out that lights the entire tradition of jazz on fire and throws it out of a window in the most amazing way. Ra’s boldness with these unusual electronic sounds must have really seemed interplanetary in 1971 and will still grab listeners by the throats today.
The net effect of artists like Sun Ra is that they expand what comes to be defined as music and they inspire other artists coming up after them to continue to push the boundaries in their own styles and ways. They take us places we never knew we wanted to go and we end up liking them. My Brother the Wind, Vol. 1 will leave you in one of those places. It still sounds like the modern edge of music, even though it is almost fifty years old. Sun Ra was so far ahead of his time that he is now timeless and the music he made will always be relevant. If your ears are hungry for something our current world isn’t feeding them, start here.