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The Magic City

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The Magic City album cover
The Magic City
The Shadow World
Abstract Eye
Abstract "I"
Album Information

Total Tracks: 4   Total Length: 45:23

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Wondering Sound

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Fred Goodman


Sun Ra, The Magic City
Label: Evidence Records

Here's avant-garde jazz giant Sun Ra and his Arkestra, recorded at the absolute height of their most experimental period. For some, that will translate into difficult and abrasive listening; for others, it's a chance to examine one of jazz's wiggiest creators with his hair all the way down. The pianist/composer's journey was a unique and fruitful one, and depending upon who you believe — the State of Alabama or the composer — he was either… read more »

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better than drugs


I agree with the last two reviewers. This is one of the best "outside" jazz records I own. The Arkestra swings it all beautifully. I hear traces of Ellington, which is weird because it's not supposed to sound like a big band. But it's Ra's roots and that comes through. I think the musicians must've been on another spiritual plane while recording this. It just makes me feel good.

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Into the 21st century


After 33 years of hiking up the amplifier volume to listen to my scratchy and poorly-pressed Impulse copy, I finally downloaded this. What a pleasure to hear the instruments emerging from the murk. Really helps appreciate Ronnie Boykins bass and the innovative percussion.

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Not just noise


I've never been a big fan of free jazz. To me, most of it just sounds like noise. This album, although "noisy" and "unmelodic", however struck a chord with me. Sun Ra and his band shift between moods and solos so smoothly, that rather than sounding like a chaotic mess, the whole album sounds like a cohesive, epic musical journey. I've heard some so-called "free jazz" musicians who I've questioned if they can really play (e.g., Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Rashied Ali), but it's obvious that Sun Ra and his band can actually play - they just choose to play atonally here, and they do it well. Yes, this album is pretty far out, but it's got enough structure that a person with more mainstream tastes in jazz can enjoy it.

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They Say All Music Guide

The boundaries of Sun Ra’s self-proclaimed “space jazz” underwent a transformation in the mid-’60s. The Magic City is an aural snapshot of that metamorphic process. Many enthusiasts and scholars consider this to be among Ra’s most definitive studio recordings. Although the “city” in the album’s title was thought to have been New York — where the disc was recorded — it is actually Ra’s earthly birthplace of Birmingham, AL. The Magic City consists of four free jazz compositions: the album side-length title track, “The Shadow World,” “Abstract Eye,” and “Abstract I” — two variants of a common work. These pieces are essentially ensemble improvisations recorded live. Any direction from Ra, indicating the order of soloists for instance, would be given either through his playing or with hand signals. Sun Ra & His Solar Myth Arkestra took up residency in Manhattan’s East Village in the early to mid-’60s. Their neighbors included Pharaoh Sanders as well as Babatunde Olatunji. In fact, “The Shadow World,” “Abstract Eye,” and “Abstract I” were actually recorded in Olatunji’s loft. The title track begins with weaving distant and frenetic lines from Ronnie Boykins (bass) and Ra (piano, clavoline), connected by intermittent eruptions from Roger Blank (drums). All the while, Marshall Allen’s dreamlike piccolo randomly maneuvers through the sonic haze. The piece also contains an ensemble onslaught that abruptly contrasts with everything experienced up through that point. In the wake of the innately earthbound “Magic City” are three comparatively shorter pieces with subtle undercurrents that return Ra to space motifs. For example, the importance of sonic contrast defines “The Shadow World” by juxtaposing the lightly churning bass and cymbal into some surreal keyboard interjections from Ra. The Magic City also comes with an insightful liner notes essay from Ra scholar John F. Szwed, aiding in understanding the circumstances surrounding this piece of free jazz genius. – Lindsay Planer

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