My buddy, Jim, single-handedly turned me into a Sun Ra fan.
Back when I first began listening to jazz, when my thirst for hearing something completely new far outstripped my realm of listening experience, I "encountered" It's After The End Of The World by Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Research Arkestra. The record was on the MPS/BASF label and flaunted the classic Hieronymus Bosch painting, "Der Garten der himmlischen Freuden". I fully expected that my possession of such a cool record immediately afforded me the status of "cool dude".
Then I listened to it. Well, I listened to less than sixty seconds of each of the five tracks on the record and then sheepishly returned the record to its sleeve (an impressive gatefold, nonetheless) and buried it in my collection vowing never to speak of it again. I harboured a fear of Sun Ra for more than a couple of decades but told no one.
Then, while participating in a music (read: jazz/improv) listening group I met my Waterloo. The group was set up so that each month each member took turns choosing a recording they loved, making copies and presenting it to the remaining members of the group sight unseen. This meant we listened to the recordings without preconceptions or, more importantly, prejudice. My buddy Jim, offered up a mystery recording that was, at turns, hypnotic, groovy, confounding, melodic but always interesting.
When we met the next month to discuss what we'd listened to, I really had no frame of reference or any idea who it could be. But I liked it and wanted to hear more. Jim had chosen this record:
All this to say, any aspiring jazz listener hungering to begin their personal musical journey, shouldn't set out from the port of Sun Ra but should welcome it once the trip is well under way. When the time is right the disembarkation at the Sun Ra destination may be a considerably long one. This is as good a place as any to begin. The album is called New Steps, was recorded on the HORO record label and released in 1978. There are a couple of standards and plenty of space for Sun Ra and John Gilmore to solo (and that's a good thing!). It's billed as the Sun Ra Quartet but there might be a phantom fifth person (on bass)...
The playlist is:
1. Sun Steps - 11:37
2. Moon People - 7:50
3. My Favorite Things - 7:49
4. Exactly Like You - 6:04
5. Friend and Friendship - 6:58
6. Rome at Twilight - 5:08
7 - When There Is No Sun - 4:37
8. The Horo - 15:33