Album of the Day: Sun Ra Arkestra, “Live In Kalisz, 1986”

On December 7th, 1986, the Sun Ra Arkestra was in the midst of a European tour that brought them to Kalisz, an old Polish city established in the 10th century. Arriving at the tail end of the Cold War, Live In Kalisz captures the night that Sun Ra and his Arkestra performed behind the Iron Curtain as part of the 13th annual International Jazz Piano Festival. Opening with the nearly 15-minute long tone-setter “Infinity Drum Intro/Discipline 27-ll,” the Arkestra immediately leapt into a frenzy, building up and deconstructing lengthy passages of open-ended sound positioned against frantic free-soloing. It’s hard to imagine this music not challenging the audiences expectations and endurance. 

With an ensemble a dozen players strong, including Arkestra mainstays such as John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Danny Ray Thomspon and others, the Arkestra is particularly muscular and fluid. Throughout the set, the band proves equally capable of moving between different styles like the swinging, unorthodox bop of “I’ll Never Be The Same,” to their lighthearted take on the vocal jazz standard “Mack The Knife.” The now-classic Arkestra tune “Children Of The Sun” also appears here in all its buoyant, celebratory glory. Bold and swinging, the song is an ecstatic and joyous look into the future. Tapping into the deep, emancipating optimism that lies at the core of the Arkestra’s identity, the band swings with great zeal, complete with Sun Ra promising listeners that “Things ain’t never gonna be like they used to be! A different kind of day is on its way.”

-John Morrison

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