A new series of remastered, reissued and unreleased recordings by Sun Ra (1914-1993), the late-great jazz musician, bandleader and cosmic philosopher, are coming out this fall, according to the Manimal Group, which will press and distribute the new CD and vinyl. The project is being overseen by Irwin Chusid, the administrator for Sun Ra LLC as well as an outsider music expert, author and WFMU DJ, who will issue the music through the LLC's as-yet-named label.
The series, which was announced today (May 22) on what would have been Sun Ra's 101st birthday, is being compiled in conjunction with Michael D. Anderson, the archivist for the Sun Ra Music Archive, a treasure trove of the jazz visionary's vast catalog of recordings. Anderson himself began playing in Sun Ra's Arkestra when he was a teenager and lived with the bandleader at Saturn House in Philadelphia before becoming the band's archivist.
The new releases will be broken down into three categories: a set of recordings from the basement of the Choreographers Workshop, the New York City locale where Sun Ra's band practiced and recorded between 1962-1965; an exotica collection containing music spanning his recording career from 1956 through 1991; and a set of singles compiled by Anderson.
"Seventy-five percent of Sun Ra's music is more accessible than most people realize," Chusid tells Billboard, noting the influence on Sun Ra of more terrestrial-bound musicians such as Duke Ellington, Les Baxter, Cole Porter and George Gershwin. "He recorded everything from swing to weird-ass free jazz to electronic music and more."
The series will also contain selections from the voluminous "Mastered for iTunes" reissues first made public over Sun Ra's centennial celebration which so far includes 46 Sun Ra albums with more to come.
Chusid and Sun Ra LLC have also partnered with the Virtual Label, which is slated to release Sun Ra's catalog records on CD and LP later this year.
The announcement comes as part of the newly formed Manimal Group, which will include the new Sun Ra label as well as Franki Chan's IHEARTCOMIX/1NFINITY, BUSY Sounds (Wil$on), La Societe Expeditionnaire (Strand of Oaks), Casa del Puente Discos (DIIV, of Montreal), Moby and Julie Mintz's Daughters of Cain label, LOOSE, Canadian punk label LA-TI-DA Records, The WORK Magazine Music and Norm Block's Cautionary Tail. The new label group, which is overseen by Manimal Vinyl Records' Paul Beahan, has just partnered with INgrooves for distribution following his label's three-year deal with the Frenchkiss Label Group via the Orchard.
Manimal Vinyl Records, Beahan's own label, is currently working on releasing collaborations with Yoko Ono, compilations with dub/reggae label VP Records and a deluxe re-issue of the Langley Schools Music Project Innocence and Despair (also overseen by Chusid).
Chusid, whose stated mission is to "find things on the scrap heap of history that I know don't belong there and salvage them," literally wrote the book on outsider musicians in his well-regarded book Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music (2000, A Capella). He is also responsible releasing recordings by a number of musicians far outside today's mainstream, including Esquivel, Martin Denny, Shooby Taylor, Raymond Scott and R. Stevie Moore. Chusid can still be heard on WFMU on Wednesday afternoons from 3-6 p.m.