name-droppings & compari-sons
name-droppings & compari-sons
i agree with most of the group's comments regarding sun ra and zappa, even the contradictory ones ...
each composer/ improvisor created musical and philosophical universes. the extent to which those universes overlapped is mainly in the ears of their inhabitants.
when i asked george clinton about sun ra, he had heard him perform live once (i believe), and delivered his canned response (used in many interviews):
"yeah, he's out to lunch - same place i eat at!"
clinton would often refer to "controlled chaos" as one of the keys to his bandleading/ orchestrating and overall live performance approach.
within the endless groove he uses hand and body signals to mold the individual and collective sonics onstage.
there is one reference to sun ra on a funkadelic album, "standing on the verge of getting it on", in the liner notes by pedro bell, referring to sun ra as one of the apostles. bell, incidentally, is included in corbett's "spaceways" exhibition with an image of sun ra, doctored from what i believe originally is a hinds brothers piece.
mothership notwithstanding, when i asked sun ra about clinton, he said, "he's doing earth music."
the zappa article was posted on facebook on zappa's recent birthday (21 dec.).
at the time, the world was freshly mourning the loss of don van vliet, aka captain beefheart, who passed on dec.17. personally this has affected me greatly, and i've been listening to loads of beefheart lately. somehow this seems worth mentioning. beefheart is usually mentioned in association with zappa; they went to high school together and did some work together, although their creative spirits diverge widely. captain beefheart deserves to be mentioned on his own terms, distinct from zappa.
in terms of sun ra, there may be elements of captain beefheart music that appeal to sun ra fans, especially his horn-blowing. some of the best examples are from live performances. another notable comparison is both artists' devotion to precision and discipline. there is nearly no improvisation in captain beefheart's music - it is almost all completely scripted. another thing they shared is the gift of words. both were prolific in their outpouring of spontaneous creations. they also both were gifted in visual art.
ornette coleman appears to have been influenced by beefheart, attending a show at ungano's in new york in 1971, and shortly thereafter putting together prime time which to my ears incorporates many of the rhythmic underpinnings and loopy phrasings inherent in beefheart's music.
some of van vliet's lyrics would perhaps have been appreciated by sun ra, such as "apes-ma" and "flash gordon's ape". maybe not "big eyed beans from venus".
how about sonny sharrock? there's a well-known encounter between sonny and sunny, in which sharrock bumps into ra coming around a corner in harlem, and sun ra invites him over for a lesson, which consisted of watching a film about statues that speak when the wind blows across them. although a guitarist, sharrock didn't dig rock, he extolled jazz, especially miles and trane. he did certainly dig doowop, having been a singer as a youth in his uncle's group.
one more name to drop in this musing missive, jimi hendrix. another artist who left his hometown to make it in nyc in the 1960's. steeped in r&b, although not a big fan of doowop. must have been aware of the arkestra's greenwich village presence as he traipsed around bleecker street. ended up getting tight with rahsaan and miles.
only one specific reference i know of to sun ra, from jimi's drummer mitch mitchell, in an interview along with jimi - in which they speak about jazz. mitch mentions sun ra in passing, referring to his fans being elitist. jimi doesn't comment however.
jimi wrote alot about outer space. some fragments of his music are without a big beat and could be inspirations a la sunny.