At the same time he was making space-age jazz that grew increasingly weirder, pianist and bandleader Sun Ra was putting out singles aimed at jukeboxes and radio stations. Many of his 45s had little in common with the art-jazz he was otherwise creating. He recruited wacky collaborators, backed doo-wop artists and recorded some truly strange stuff. Whether they were jokes or bona fide attempts at airplay and sales is a question for the scholars. Maybe he was hoping to pay the bills with some of these records, since few people were buying his albums. Or maybe he was putting everybody on. Given that this is Sun Ra we’re talking about, it’s probably a little of both worlds.
Strut Records has gathered what it claims is the definitive collection of Sun Ra’s 45s in a three-CD set (versions of it will also be available on six vinyl LPs or twenty 45s). Many of these songs have been available on previous collections, but some of them are being reissued for the first time. Taken in total, they present Sun Ra as one of the strangest fellows the world of music—not just the world of jazz—has ever seen.