My friend Ron Horton, who plays trumpet in my quartet, was recently doing some research at the Library of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office, tracking down some music for his upcoming concert (The Music of Andrew Hill, Jazz Composers' Collective, Thurs. Feb. 8, 8 pm, Greenwich House, 47 Barrow St., NYC), as well as some Herbie Nichols tunes.
While he was there, he looked up Sun Ra's copyright listings for me and found 58 tunes registered from 1955 to 1970 under four variants of Sun Ra's name. Among these were the following unrecorded tunes (or perhaps tunes that were recorded under other titles):
Baby Please Be Mine registered February 9, 1955 (Ra's first copyright) Beta-Beta Birds Without Wings A Blue One (registered twice) The Blue Set East of U2 (or East of UZ?) Orbitration in Blue Satana and Saturn Spur of the Moment 21st Century As You Once Were Out of Sight Prevues of Tomorrow Tone Pictures
Most of these are from 1956-57 (seven of the fourteen are from February '56), and the last is from '64.
A bunch of other tunes are listed under slightly varied titles, like "SNOMED YBALLUL" (presumably "Demon's Lullaby") or "Chicago in Springtime" for "Springtime in Chicago." Some tunes were registered several years before they were first recorded.
"Angels and Demons at Play", attributed to Boykins in The Earthly Recordings, was registered as a Le Sony'r Ra composition (which, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that Sun Ra wrote it).
Sun Ra gave his address (ca. Feb. 6, 1956) as 5414 Prairie, Apt. 41, Chicago. Is anyone familiar with that spot? Is the apartment building still there? Is this where Sun Ra lived throughout the late 50's?
Of course, we'd all love to hear these unrecorded tunes, if they are indeed unrecorded. That raises some problems, though. The Copyright Office, doing its job, doesn't allow you to copy the music, although you can sometimes get permission to look at it. Also, because these are unrecorded compositions, if anyone wanted to perform or record them, they would need to get written permission from that elusive legal entity, the Estate of Sun Ra (which I have been unable to locate after plenty of effort).
[If anyone is in touch with a representative of the estate, PLEASE send me a phone number or address. Thanks!]