Sun Ra Mural

Memories from jazz educator and musician Paul Combs:

I had a couple of encounters with Sun Ra, who was a neighbor of mine, that I would like to share with you before finishing this memoir. I first met Sun Ra during an interview at WHUY-FM, where I was the music producer/announcer. A colleague of mine, Tom Lopez, was conducting the interview, but I got to sit in on it.

Now it is well documented that Herman Blount was born in Chicago, but when he, as Sun Ra, looked me in the eye and told me he was from Saturn, I could not question it. The man had such a presence; I knew that he knew that I knew it was a fantasy, and yet in his company there was also an undeniable truth to the fantasy.

A couple of years later I had the honor to precede him and the Arkestra in a concert. This was part of a series of concerts that a group of us musicians and artists used to organize on Sundays, in a big park in the middle of the Germantown district, where we all lived. On this particular Sunday the sky was full of menacing clouds. Just as we finished performing, a fine mist began and threatened to become rain. We all worried that Ra and company would have to cancel their performance. The sound crew covered all the equipment and disconnected the power. This was discussed with the Arkestra members who were beginning to assemble at the stage, but they said it would be OK, and proceeded to get ready for their set. Just as their preparations were almost complete a car drove up and Sun Ra stepped out. The rain and mist stopped. They played, sang and danced for the next two hours without interruption from the weather, and it was magnificent. When they finished Ra got back in the car and the mist and light rain resumed. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it wasn’t.


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