Did you know Sun Ra appeared on Saturday Night Live? It’s true. On May 20, 1978, comedy lifer Buck Henry introduced Ra and his “jazz-from-another-planet Arkestra” at 30 Rock. What transpired then—in zonked performances of “Space Is the Place” and “Space Loneliness”—was a brief glitch in the mainframe where magic shone through.
Two months later, the Arkestra set up at Bob Blank’s Blank Tapes in New York City and jammed semi-freely. The amoebic results became 1978’s Lanquidity: “liquidity” meets “languidity.” If Ra were as popular as fellow SNL guests Dua Lipa or Harry Styles, it would have been hailed as a classic. Instead, it mostly languished in obscurity, a rare find on vinyl—until now.
For jazz fans unfamiliar with Ra, Lanquidity’s vibe is somewhere between Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady—where a big band hangs on a precipice—and Les McCann’s snaking, mystical Invitation to Openness. “There were horn charts, but most tracks came out of improvised jams,” Blank recalls in the press release. “Sun Ra just did his thing.”
This four-LP reissue blows the dust off of that thing, packaging a thick, plummy remaster with alternate mixes. Now, creative music fans can envisage a world in which “Where Pathways Meet” and “Twin Stars of Thence” didn’t fade like mist, but permeated pop culture. Maybe getting this music back in people’s hands is that first, small step.