Sun Ra recorded more than a hundred albums in his lifetime, so it should come as no surprise that to this day some of them have yet to materialize in the digital realm. Over the past few years, Atavistic has done a wonderful job of helping us rediscover some of his overlooked records. The latest in the series, Some Blues but Not the Kind That's Blue -- out of print since 1977 -- offers a glimpse into an oft-overlooked section of the Ra catalog: standards.
Ra's work is generally remembered as being rather "out-there," but Some Blues helps remind listeners that he had learned all the rules well before setting out to break them. The title track (one of only two originals) opens the record with a minute and a half of chaos from Ra's stripped-down, bass-less Arkestra, until suddenly he pounds out a brief piano motif that stops the band in its tracks. The jam strides on confidently, showcasing an amazing interplay between Ra's groove-heavy piano playing and the swagger of John Gilmore's tenor sax.
For the most part, the other standards follow suit, with the exception of a bewildering reading of "My Favorite Things," that begins with Ra mostly ignoring the chord-changes of the original and instead focusing on the piano as a solely percussive instrument, allowing his bandmates ample solo time to hint at the original melody. Midway through he explores the melody in various keys and tempos, and in thatmoment you can actually hear the confusion on the rest of the band's faces.
Atavistic tacks two alternate recordings of "I'll Get By" onto the end of the reissue, and both feature Ra on organ and are truly unearthed gems even to fans who have already heard the album version. The remastering of the package does leave a bit to be desired -- at least where the drums are concerned -- but the relative obscurity of the record coupled with the bonus tracks and exquisiteness of Ra's playing make that easy to overlook.
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