Sun Ra Arkestra and Salah Ragab
Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab In Egypt
Golden Years (via Leo - www.atlas.co.uk/leorecords)
Keep listening: most will want this for the Sun Ra tracks, but the true gold lies beyond.
The concept is great: the Cosmic One in the land of the pharaohs, playing beside Egyptian musicians. The results are surprisingly modest: simple riff tunes, played with some hesitance. "Egypt Strut" has a good theme but Sun's noodling is weak; "Dawn" is better, swirling drums and John Gilmore's hot tenor. As he takes off, Ra twitters like a bird a charming combination. And the drums come home on "Watusa", from a torrid club date. The sound is bad but the waltz is heavy: triumphant horns and acres of rhythm. Put simply, this is a trance; the best of Sun's efforts, though Salah Ragab is a minor presence at best. That's rectified soon, and boy, does it hit you!
For album's remainder we get Cairo bands; most players are in the Egyptian army, where Salah is commander of music. The charts are involved, the palette broad and the emotion broad. A choir laments on "Ramadan", answered by stutter-horns straight from Peter Gunn. Creamy strength in the low brass, fury in Ragab's congas. "Oriental Mood" has a small group and a big theme shades of "Danse Macabre", a snake-charmer sound from Zaky Osman's piccolo. And things take a radical turn on "Music for Angela Davis" a free-jazz big band? Salah rolls like thunder, dissonant horns stab the air; the sound of a riot, made as the 'Seventies were burning.' A memorable disc from an overlooked talent. Who thought anyone could upstage Sun Ra? - John Barrett