'Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise'
(Sun Ra, et al / DVD / NR / (1980) 2015 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Robert Mugge filmed jazz great Sun Ra on location in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. between 1978 and 1980. The resulting 60-minute film includes multiple public and private performances, poetry readings, a band rehearsal, interviews, and extensive improvisations.
DVD Verdict: OK, taking this from the top, because those not in the know should at least know that Robert Mugge is a highly regarded American documentary film maker. He has also focused - primarily - his films on/about music and the musicians that propel whatever it is he feels the need to visually bring forth, even though some of his earliest films were not music focused at all, to be quite honest! And as much as he is now continuing to branch out as his interests and work evolve, this incredible work of musical/visual art from 1980 still remains as one of his go-to works of art, when either he is talking about his career, or journalists alike.
'Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise' - of course - focuses on the man, the legend himself, "Sun Ra" (born Herman Poole Blount, legal name Le Sony'r Ra; May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993) who was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his experimental music, "cosmic philosophy," prolific output, and theatrical performances. Indeed, he was also inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1979, and deservedly so.
Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained both influential and controversial throughout his life for his music and persona. He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards. Over the course of his career, he recorded dozens of singles and over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1000 songs, and making him one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century.
Ergo, 'Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise' is most definitely a visual, and an audio delight to behold and one that still enables the man and his music to be heard; perhaps even to now become known to a whole new generation of admirers. A word of so-called warning though, this film does heavily lean into his musical exploits, his performances, and rather more less so on the narrative. Personally, I would liked to have seen a more equal balance, but then again, I'm not Robert Mugge (but who else is?!) This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Extended audio versions of performances from the film.