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Album Review

A largely overlooked duo improv date recorded on July 11, 1978, by the Danish jazz impresario Nils Winther, Visions matches Walt Dickerson's cool vibes with Sun Ra's idiosyncratic piano in a way that shows both men's contrasting styles to surprisingly cohesive effect. This was not the first time Dickerson and Ra had recorded together; producer Tom Wilson had used the duo on the soundtrack of the 1966 film Impressions on a Patch of Blue. This was their first extended series of duo improvs, however, and each seems to know exactly when to let the other hog the spotlight for a while, as during the moment toward the end of the opening "Astro," when Dickerson lays out and lets Ra launch into a two-fisted free solo. Similarly, Ra leaves the extended opening of "Utopia" almost entirely to Dickerson, adding only a few explosive thumps and some Paul Bley-style picking and strumming of the piano's strings to Dickerson's graceful and melodic playing. Fans of Sun Ra's outer space mythology and chanting lyrics will have to look elsewhere for their fun, but fans of Ra's exceptionally gifted and distinctive free jazz piano playing should be fascinated. Dickerson, one of the few jazz vibraphonists to have little audible debt to Lionel Hampton, also plays with his characteristic exploratory but controlled style. The 1988 CD adds two bonus tracks from the LP sessions, "Light Years" and "Prophesy."


Born: 22 May 1914 in Birmingham, AL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial. He did not make it easy for people to take him seriously, for he surrounded his adventurous music with costumes and mythology that both looked backward toward ancient Egypt and forward into science fiction. In addition, Ra documented his music in a very erratic fashion on his Saturn label, generally not listing recording dates and giving inaccurate personnel information, so one could not really tell how advanced some of his innovations...
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