Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra by John F. Szwed

John Szwed’s new book on Sun Ra (1914-93) is a welcome addition to the literature of jazz. Based on interviews with family members and musical associates, and upon a thorough examination of Sun Ra articles and interviews, it is a wealth of information, and is now the cornerstone of all future research on the composer/keyboardist/band-leader/philosopher/poet. Ra was an enigmatic figure, hiding his origins and early career behind a complex of space-oriented statements and theatrical performances. Szwed shows us that the truth about Herman Poole Blount a.k.a. Sonny Blount a.k.a. Le Sony’r Ra a.k.a. Sun Ra is as interesting as the fiction that Ra preferred. Musical analysis is skimpy here, and thus remains a ripe topic for a subsequent book. But the biographical facts, professional chronology, philosophy, poetry and reviews (negative and positive) are well covered.