Art Yard / Europe / 2018
"The Disco 3000 session serves as a gigantic milestone in my musical career and shock treatment indoctrination in the world of Jazz taught by the Master himself Sun Ra. To give the listener the inside scoop about the recording sessions in Italy, one would have to begin with how I met Sun Ra. While performing with John Minis’ 21-piece big band at the People’s Music Festival in Germantown. Sun Ra and the Arkestra were the headliners. I first noticed that all of the musicians had suitcases filled with music under their chairs. I introduced myself to one of the trumpet players, Ahmed Abdullah and was amazed at how much music everyone in the band had. Their performance was bizarre to say the least! With 4 brass, 7 in the reed section, 3 trap drummers and everyone in the band playing percussion with 5 beautiful dancers, Sun Ra took the audience to another level. Some weeks later I happen to see him on the trolley and told him how much I enjoyed his set. He invited me to a rehearsal and said they were headed to Egypt. Unfortunately, I had prior commitments. Months later, I saw him again and the invitation was presented again.
This time I took him up on it. When I walked in the door of 5626 Morton Street my life certainly changed. Here in the middle of the room sat Sun Ra surrounded by music, keyboards, and lots of Egyptian art. He told me “I know everything you need to know about music”. He then asked me if I knew any standards. I replied “a couple”. He asked if I knew “Lady Bird”. I said yes. He replied that it has the same changes as “Half Nelson” and we proceeded to play both songs at the same time. Then in 5/4 and 6/8 and 7/4 with John Gilmore. That one song was dissected for over 3 hours. We rehearsed for 3 days in the same fashion and then opened up in NYC where all these other musicians showed up with suitcases of music. This was the first time I got a chance to hear Sun Ra play acoustic piano and when he played somewhere over the rainbow, I knew he was a master! Next I got a call from him asking if I could come to Chicago with the band for a week. Of course I said yes. We played at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase.
The very next phone call from Sun Ra was from Rome, Italy. He asked if I was able to come to Rome to record an album. I jumped at the chance! Luckily I already had a passport from my travels with the singing pop group the Stylistics.
I had traveled to Japan and South America with them but had never been to Europe, nor recorded a Jazz album. The winter of ’78, I headed to Rome not knowing what to expect but knowing I was in good hands with Sunny (As everybody close to him called him) John Gilmore and Luqman Ali. Sun Ra would get up everyday at dawn. We would then drive over to Media Dreams, a small studio run by Andreas and Algie, very good friends of the band. Andreas was credited with the development of the Walkman, which he sold to Sony Company. It was here that most of my early dues were paid. Sun Ra would tell me “You’re playing your horn alright but try my way, unless you have some sort of mental block. Play that apple. Remember it’s round so think of 360 degrees of sound and color. It’s red which means its energy deals with the first chakra, you have to be able to play the ‘vibration’ ”. We rehearsed like this from early in the morning to late at night for days. It was like having someone erase your main frame and reboot your hard drive! Sunny always said expect the unexpected. “We might have a gig on Mars one day so you got to be swinging on your horn, because they don’t party like earthlings”. Two days before the gig Sunny decides at a production meeting that he wants to show his movie Space is the Place without the sound and have the quartet set up behind the screen playing along with the visuals of the film. Of the material played my favorite is “Dance of the Cosmo Aliens” which I went on to record with my band the Cosmic Krewe. So here you are. As a listener, you hold documentation of the cosmic conversion. Astrophysics plus Egyptian hieroglyphics equal Space is the place.
Sun Ra and Gilmore stayed in Europe and Luqman and I returned to the States carrying Ra’s keyboards and the heavy 36mm film canisters which were confiscated by Customs. When Sunny returned stateside and learned this, he went to the Customs house armed with x-rated mags and said “you have my film of beauty and art locked up and yet you sell pictures of naked pussies downstairs in your lobby” Needless to say they released his film." (Michael Ray).