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December 2000

Sun Ra
Pathways to Unknown Worlds and Friendly Love
Evidence Music

Pathways to Unknown Worlds (one of two discs released by Impulse! that had not been previously issued by Saturn), and the two lost sessions, Cymbals and Crystal Spears (which were in the pipeline when the licensing deal ended in '75) reflect how Ra and the Arkestra had, by 1973, at least minimally penetrated a wider audience by sharing concert bills with rock acts and playing festivals presenting both jazz and blues bands. Though Pathways to Unknown Worlds consists only of what annotator Robert Campbell calls "guided improvisation"-strong, abstract pieces whose only common denominator was Ra's intuition-the title piece opens the album with a mix of muted trumpet, bass clarinet, keyboards and percussion that bears a passing resemblance to Miles Davis' directions in music. Additionally, the program is peppered with what Campbell calls Ra's "mad scientist" solos and asides. Indubitably, this mix of vague connections to proven jazz commodities and Ra's flamboyant persona accounted for what Michel described as the "sales potential" that drove Impulse! to release 10 Ra albums in three years, and assign catalog numbers to another 11.

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Johanna Goodman

illustration of Sun Ra

Originally published in December 2000
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