Re: Heliocentric

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#1 Thu, 1970-01-01 00:00
Jack Lefton
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Joined: 2010-12-22 23:40

Re: Heliocentric

I checked my copy of esp 1017, which I'm pretty sure I purchased opon its release and the matrix is the same as James Wolf's.

When I took the record out of the jacket, I noticed that the Downbeat review I had put inside thirty years ago was still there. The reviewer was by jazz educator and Kenton associate William Russo, whom I have always considered tight assed and small minded. His scathing review of Trane's Meditations prompted the only letter to the editor I have ever written.

Reading his opinion of this record and two others was quite interesting and I believe list members will enjoy this reprint. I am missing the beginning of the review.

"Boykins again demonstrates his considerable skill in 'Lights on a Sattellite', and the influence of Lennie Tristano can be heard in portions of Sun Ra's piano solo. (This is followed bya section in which Sun Ra's performance of eigth notes is curiously thick-fingered.) The two other albums are far less conventional than'Fate'. The works are longer and display a more complicated set of musical materials, including free collective improvisation; a predominance of speech rhythms, as opposed to measured rhythms; the use of standard instuments in unusual modes, such as saxophone honks and squeaks, double bass and saxophone harmonics, trombone sforzandos in straight mute ala Alban Berg, shimmering scale runs over two or three octaves; the use of relatively new instruments (tuned bongos, bass marimba); and the use of wholly new instruments, such as electronic celeste, clavioline, sun harp ,dragon drum-the latter two, I suppose, inventions of the composer. On 'The Sun Myth', in "Heliocentric Worlds', the composer has superimposed what sounds like African singing (from someone else's album presumably), which I rathere enjoyed when I could hear it. His playing of tuned bongos is exciting and appropiate here, and the bowed double bass (again by Boykins) is extremely well played, as is the pizzicato work near the end of the piece. After an alto saxophone solo, the work moves into an extroardinary collection of sounds. At first these are marvelously well organized-or fitted (I assume they are improvised)-but as thy proceed, they disintegrate, culminating in utter gracelessness and lack of form. The remaining pieces in 'Heliocentric', as well as the four pieces in 'Magic City', demonstrate the same faults and virtues heard in the pieces already discussed It would be pointless to treat them one by one. But I should like to point out that in them Boykins is almost always very good, that the trumpet solo on 'Abstract "I"'(by Capers), shows great flexibility (By which I mean the ability to lip slur with ease) as well as velocity, and that Sun Ra'splaying of tuned bongos, bass marimba, clavioline, sun harp, dragon drum, and electronic celeste (these he plays not so much as solo instuments but as orchestral instruments-often in improvised or semi-improvised passages in conjunction with other instruments) constitutes the most impressive aspect of this album. It is here that Sun Ra demonstrates his compositional sense, and on many occasions it is of a high order".

I still think he's kind of tight assed, but I guess he's not that close minded.