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Portland Label Unearths Lost Sun Ra Concert


The Sun Ra live album recorded in Portland will be released by Jackpot Records on Record Store Day.

The Sun Ra live album recorded in Portland will be released by Jackpot Records on Record Store Day.

Jackpot Records

When you think about the most important musical experiences of your life, the concerts that helped shape your perception of both music and yourself, how do you conjure up those black box recorder sounds? Perhaps you close your eyes and haul up the memory from some slippery pool in your mind. If it’s a concert from the last decade, maybe you just pull up the video you took on your phone or search for a clip on the internet. You can watch it that way, but it’s not quite remembering.

As for the concerts that occurred before the age of smart phones, you can only get to it via other more nostalgic routes. You can keep a box filled with ticket stubs. There’s the gossamer feel of the concert t-shirts you’ve taken on and off hundreds of times that might transport you back in time.

And, of course, you can gaze lovingly at the poster you either bought or pinched off the wall on the way out of the venue. That poster becomes a memory marker, reminding you that you were there at that venue on that date, listening to a performance that never sounded exactly that way again.

In the case of Portland’s famed Pine Street Theater, on the night of October 28, 1988, it was just such a concert poster that helped pry open a door of the cosmos into the mysterious world of Sun Ra.  On that October night, nearly 30 years ago, Sun Ra & his Cosmo Love Adventure Arkestra explored all manner of sonic realms. The being from Saturn brought his musical entourage to the Rose City, a group that included Eddie Gale on trumpet, multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen, saxophonist John Gilmore and ever present vocalist June Tyson. What about that poster?

Local artist, Mike King created the poster for the show, using Sun Ra’s countenance as the focal point, coloring his celestial gaze in shades of deep purple.

Soon the poster found its way tacked to telephone poles, plastered on walls and displayed in the windows of every record store in town.

Eventually the poster found its way into the collection of then 17-year-old Isaac Slusarenko. That image was as close as he would get to the concert at the Pine Street Theater because the show was not all ages. It was a poster that lacked the power to conjure up sonic recollections for its owner.

Fast forward nearly three decades and Isaac now runs Jackpot Records and its record label. He’s working with recording engineer Thomas Robinson on a project and talk turns to music and they start discussing Sun Ra.  Soon they realize they both possess a copy of Mike King’s iconic poster of Sun Ra at Pine Street Theater.

Of course, Thomas likely has many posters from Pine Street Theater because he did the sound for countless shows at the venue.  They keep talking, and soon, Isaac learns that Thomas remembers that concert very well because Sun Ra signed his poster and Thomas also recorded the show with the meticulous attention to detail he became known for.

Isaac’s mind goes supernova at the realization that he will finally get to hear the concert that has always just been a poster on a wall.

The concert recording, with the blessing and assistance of Sun Ra’s estate, will be released by Jackpot Records on Record Store Day with a copy of the signed Sun Ra poster included. Feast your ears above on one of the tunes from the vinyl-only release.

Sun Ra Music

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