Sun Ra: Space Jazz

Born Herman Poole Blount, Sun Ra was a big jazz composer in the Chicago jazz scene in the 1940s. His adopted name, Le Sony’r Ra, comes from Ra, the Egyptian Sun God. He adopted this name to reject his slave name. Sun Ra’s jazz music was very experimental and included free improvisation and electronic elements. This type of futuristic blending is what he was known for. The other types of music influencing his style included ragtime and early New Orleans hot jazz, to swing music, bebop, free jazz and fusion. He is most well known for his own style of free jazz that he called “space jazz” or “cosmic jazz”.

In the 1950s, Sun Ra created El Saturn Records, a record label under which he released 45 singles and 2 albums entitled Super-Sonic Jazz (1957) and Jazz In Silhouette (1959) by himself and other artists related to him. His first solo album, Jazz by Sun Ra, was released by Transition Records in 1957.

From the mid-1950s until his death, Ra led the musical collective The Arkestra, which made up the majority of his jazz career. The Arkestra had very eccentric Egyptian and space aged themed performances. This group saw his transition from jazz to his afrofuturistic electronic style, as it became a collective of 20-30 musicians and performance-style acts.

Sun Ra died on May 30, 1993 at the age of 89. His legacy lives on through the Arkestra which is now led through Marshall Allen.

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