Album Review: Sun Ra – Of Abstract Dreams [Strut Records; March 2018]

Sun Ra‘s Of Abstract Dreams is a previously unreleased album from jazz pianist and bandleader’s archives. This four-piece recording (released in March by Strut Records) was performed for WXPN-FM radio station between approximately 1974 and 1975. The compositions in the album are always surprising and contrasting, led by Sun Ra on the piano before morphing in beautiful and unexpected ways. The album feels conversational between the instruments, weaving stories and calm mania. The recordings also have the vibe of a smoky music room of band members really enjoying playing together and having time collectively.

The four pieces on the album feel different. “Island In The Sun” has a charming piano intro, and it feels dusty and heavy while also feeling light and bouncy. The instruments are unsuspecting, and they come in at different places. The music is comforting while also incorporating twists and turns. Whereas in “New Dawn” the woodwind compliments the piano. The drums enter carefully and drive the groove forward all the more. At points, the instruments seem to lose the story they are creating, and you can feel it. While the instrumentation is huge and surprising, a few times it hits tedious moments. On the whole, there is a beautiful contrast between the instruments.

In “Unmask the Batman” the music works together to pull you in different ways. There is singing in the last two pieces. These pieces incorporate call and response vocals. The saxophone is fitting, adding more comfort to this piece. It is one of the most contained compositions in the album before descending more chaotically just towards the end of the piece. “I’ll Wait For You” mixes cool rumbly piano with a jazz / Afro-Cuban groove. There is a light jamming and smooth danceable feel to this section. It is less abstract and more focused compared to previous parts of the album.

The whole album is a beautiful mix of different personalities talking together through music; where lower frequencies anchor the compositions to the earth, and higher notes pull towards the sky.