At the behest of Ra Alumnis Trombonist/composer Craig Harris, who was moving on to other musical pursuits and was thusly providing Sunny with a 'trade off' by bringing Sun Ra fresh musicians to assage his departure as a steady member of the Arkestra.........an audition was arranged for myself, Tenor/Baritone saxist Kenny Williams and trombonist Henry Mitchell...all proteges of Makanda Ken McIntyre and recent graduates of the African American Music program at State University at Old Westbury.
The auditon took place at Studio WIS....151 West 21st Street in Manhattan ....the Jazz Loft of Prof Warren I Smith (founder of M'Boom.... the percussion ensemble headed by Max Roach). who mentored promising Old Westbury graduates.... incorporating them into his Composers Workshop Ensemble. Rehearsing and performing in what along with Sam Rivers Studio Rivbea was the first and the last of the 'Jazz Loft scene in NY from the 60s to the 90s.
Knoel Scott Quartet live
Sun Ra arrived and sat at the keyboard...launching into Cherokee...the litmus test for Jazz musicians.
Admittedly both Henry and Kenny were un-intimidated musically and sailed through Sunny's progressions....
As for.myself ..then and to this day a Charlie Parker sycophant....I found myself totally daunted as Sunny would change the chords each time around...playing alterations and harmonic substitutions that left me totally amazed and frustrated as I feebly attempted to negotiate my way through his chord alterations...........this was jazz at a level far beyond my bebop licks.... though i thought i knew Cherokee quite well.
Sun Ra then began to speak of what it meant to be a member of the Arkestra.
'This is the Creator's Band.......and I work for the Creator.
So if you want money, fame or fortune you dont want to work with me.
If you want Money, Fame or Fortune this is not the band for you.....
As I recognized Sun Ra as the return of Pharoah, the personification of the Black Gods of Ancient Egypt.....this proclamaition was a call.................
Kenny, a Grover Washinton disciple asequaly undaunted and was eager to join............Henry was working at the Apollo Theatre with Ray Chews Band and was not interested in such noble pursuits
For myself, I had already made membership in the Arkestra my life's dream from the moment I heard JAZZ IN SILHOEUTTE in Makandas office during my studies at Old Westbury.
Sun Ra told me to be at Variety Arts Recording Studio on 42nd Street at 6 ave the next day. That morning me and Kenny joined Sun Ra's marathon occupation of Variety Arts Studio.....from 10 am to 4 am five days a week..............an ongoing session which spawned the Albums.....Sleeping Beauty, Omniverse, Strange Celestial Road, UFO, Nuclear War and a number of others.
That first morning Sun Ra sat at the piano and began playing over some previously recorded tracks as myself, Michael Ray, June Tyson, Danny Thompson, Jacj Jacjson, Thomas Hunter, maybe Elo Omo, Kenny, John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, were gathered around the piano with our instruments. Sunny began playing something outer-worldly and nodded to me.
I was on Baritone Sax and looked at Michael in stupor.............what key? Mike mouthed the word PLAY!!!!! And I played my first solo with Sun Ra on our second meeting......recorded as part of an extended intro to what was titled Sympathetic Vibration on the UFO album.
No, I had no idea at all of what was going on.....Sun Ra would tell me later:
I don't want your musical knowledge, your bebop vocabulary or your musical training.................I WANT YOUR SPIRIT.......spirit sound.
During subsequent days and nights at Variety Arts Sun Ra would let Mike Ray coach us through the recording of the vocal tracks o UFO, and On Jupiter.
Sun Ra believed that the way to get to the public was with vocals and would sight the popularity of Louis Armstrong as an example.
You've got to reach people...singers always reach people..............I remember him saying.
Singing has added a more intimate aspect to my presentation and expression.
The inclusion of vocalese and spoken word in my performances has enabled me to continue Sun Ra's clarion call for the continuance of Jazz Tradition...........
They tried to fool you....I'm here to school you..... about Jazz...........It don't mean a thing...if it aint got that swing..
A beautiful capture of the Sun Ra Arkestra in Rome 1980
My plans for 2018 include the completion of KSQ's debut Album.............'Stardust' and signing on with a company to release it as well as launch KSQ on a promotional tour.
Music to me is the embodiment of Gods Love..............as Art Blakey said ...to wash off the dust ..of everyday life.
Music is my offering to the Creator and to the people of this planet.
Music is my testament to the beings of other worlds that there is more to this planet than death and destruction
Music is my reason for living.
Psalms :151 is what music is to me.
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