On the eve of Sun Ra’s 102nd Birthday (in earth years), multi-instrumentalist and composer David Slusser leads a very accomplished and diverse band through some arrangements from Sun Ra’s first two recordings, Jazz (later reissued as Sun Song by Delmark in 1967) on the Transition label, and Supersonic Jazz, the debut on his own Saturn label, both released in 1957. These LPS were 2 of the 3 recordings released by Sun Ra in the 1950’s. The Stray Horns will also present some other Sun Ra material in this concert.
Darren Johnston – trumpet
Mara Fox – trombone
Sheldon Brown – alto sax
Steve Heckman – tenor sax
Dave Slusser – baritone & soprano sax, flute
Terry Rodriguez – piano
Mali Vincent Williams – bass
Greg German – drums
David Slusser is a musician and sound artist active in the bay area since 1977. He was a founding member of the musical groups Jive Soup, Avant Gardeners, Pluto, Rubber City,Lost Planet and the Stray Horns. Through work with the ROVA saxophone quartet, he began an association with composer John Zorn in the mid eighties that led to touring and recording, and continues in the present. Through Zorn he met vocalist Mike Patton, who included him in a trio with drummer Han Bennink at the 1996 Saafelden Jazz Festival in Austria, and a large ensemble at the 2010 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Zorn also introduced him to trumpeter Dave Douglas, in whose group he performed at Stanford in 2014. Early on, Slusser was a protégé of East Bay legends tenor saxophonist Vince Wallace and drummer Ed “Smiley” Winters, cutting his teeth with future piano greats Benny Green, Jessica Williams and Mark Little. During the San Francisco “swing craze” of the 90s, he was featured tenor sax soloist in Tim Hesla’s popular big band. Writing for big band since high school, Slusser received two prizes in the 1999 Julius Hemphill Composition Awards, including first prize for jazz orchestra. The Stray Horns mark a return to this form. He has also composed for film documentaries and public radio.
David Slusser’s “day job” has been doing sound for film or broadcast, starting with PBS in Cleveland in 1975, to his current position at Skywalker Sound in Marin County. Along the way, he worked often as music editor for directors George Lucas, Francis Coppola, and David Lynch, with whom he has co-composed music for his films. He received an Emmy award for sound editing in 1993 for the Young Indiana Jones television series, and two commercials he sound designed and mixed, won Clio awards for advertising in 1993 and 1994. He also contributed sound design to James Cameron’s Terminator 2. This aspect of his work parallels his interest in musique concrete and electronic music. Slusser’s sound design is in the collections of both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. What was supposed to be a short job at Pixar Animation Studios in 1996 lasted through 2013, where he helped to develop scores and sound design for their projects.
Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, legal name Le Sony’r Ra, May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993) was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his experimental music, “cosmic philosophy,” prolific output, and theatrical performances. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1979. For much of his career, Ra led “The Arkestra”, an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up.
Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained both influential and controversial throughout his life for his music and persona. He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards.Over the course of his career, he recorded dozens of singles and over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1000 songs, and making him one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century. Following Sun Ra’s death in 1993, the Arkestra continues to perform, under the direction of saxophonist Marshall Allen