This Sun Ra 1980 solo set at Haverford College has been kicking around the internet and in the digital libraries of Ra collectors for years, though it has not previously been properly mastered or commercially issued.
Like many events in Ra’s history, this gig has a story that goes beyond the music. Ra’s presence onstage that night came about through an unforeseen chain of events that unfolded up until concert time. This is a very unique performance. Sun Ra is notorious for his aggressive keyboard attack and seemingly schizophrenic stylings—which can musically rocket from A to Z and back without transitional bridges. This set offers a marked contrast. Ra’s instrument here is the celeste-like Fender Rhodes electric piano, which has a distinct sound (instantly recognizable in the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”) and an interesting history. There are few pyrotechnics in this performance, and much restraint. Ra sounds relaxed and contemplative. It’s Soothing Sounds for Saturnians.
The meditative concert covers Ra’s customary approach to solo outings: 1) original Ra crowd pleasers (“Space is the Place,” “Love in Outer Space”); 2) standards (“St. Louis Blues,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Over the Rainbow”); and 3) untitled improvisations (here assigned the titles “Haverford Impromptu” numbers one and two).