The Nu­bians of Plu­to­nia was record­ed by Sun Ra and his Arkestra be­fore 1960 and re­leased in 1966, but it’s not re­al­ly mu­sic of ei­ther pe­ri­od, it’s of the dis­tant fu­ture. Or at least that’s what Sun Ra claimed; mind you, he al­so claimed he was born on Saturn and that aliens were go­ing to be ar­riv­ing any min­ute. Hav­ing said that, Plu­to­ni­an Nights is one of the coolest jazz tracks ev­er record­ed in any galaxy; I’m glad it was this one.

Sun Ra

Sun Ra com­bined lu­di­crous cos­tumery and good-humored eru­dite crazi­ness with strong song­writ­ing, the ex­cep­tion­al tal­ents of sax­o­phon­ist James Gil­more, and pret­ty deft key­board play­ing when he felt like it. Check out some of the video links be­low. If you lis­ten to Plu­to­ni­an Nights and de­cide you’re a fan, I ad­vise sam­pling any oth­er Sun Ra be­fore you buy; some of the mu­sic is so far out­side it’s head­ing for or­bit, which is ex­act­ly the in­ten­t, on­ly maybe it doesn’t sound like what you might con­sid­er mu­sic. Per­son­al­ly I find that the thrills make up for the spill­s, most times at least, but then mu­si­cal­ly I’m a thrillseek­er.

Quot­ing from a blog I wrote on this piece in 2012: The open­ing rhythm-section makes weird but ef­fec­tive use of the piano’s very bot­tom strings, then it segues in­to a con­ven­tion­al horn vam­p, ex­cept for Gilmore’s bass-saxophone con­tin­uo, mixed loud and front and cen­ter, is ap­prox­i­mate­ly the funki­est sax part in the his­to­ry of the uni­verse. Even­tu­al­ly you get some nice break­s, clar­inet (I think) and bowed bass, then the funky horns come back to shiv­er your tim­bers for a minute or so on the way out.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. This tune on iTunes, Spo­ti­fy, Ama­zon. There’s no live video of this tune, but lots of Sun Ra. Here’s an only-mildly de­ranged pair of songs from 1989. Nex­t, don’t try this at home. As one YouTube com­ment notes, he miss­es one note at 0:56 but oth­er­wise per­fec­t. Nifty French TV show (mu­sic starts at 1:30, and the first twen­ty min­utes are full-on drum hys­te­ri­a).

It’s per­fect­ly pos­si­ble that Sun Ra was laugh­ing at us all those years. But he went to his grave with­out los­ing his pok­er face.

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April 06, 2018
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