Thursday, April 9, 2009

Remembering Sun Ra

My earlier post about seeing Cecil Taylor live got me thinking about other jazz artists I caught in concert. One memorable occasion was seeing Sun Ra with a 100-piece orchestra in NYC. 

I was living in New York around 1985-86 when Sun Ra rented out an abandoned ballroom on the Lower East Side and put on this extraordinary concert. I had a friend named Liz who, although not into jazz, was up for the adventure and accompanied me.

I don't remember what the building was called, but it was a great space for a concert, with a large main room featuring ornate balconies. The band was set up on one side, with the audience sitting on the floor on the other side. I don't think it was the tightest performance that I've ever heard, but it was great just seeing that mass of musicians at one time.

The best part of the evening occured after the show. Liz and I decided to explore the space so we went up to the balcony area. And who should we find sitting there than Mr. Sun Ra himself! He was very gracious as we engaged in some chit-chat. At one point his two dancers came in and rubbed oil on his feet! (I wonder if one was June Tyson?)

I'm glad I can say that I met the enigmatic Sun Ra in person.

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