“Pressed for All Time,” Vol. 7 — producer John Snyder on Sun Ra’s 1990 album Purple Night

June 25th, 2020

.

.

Drawn from interviews with prominent producers, engineers, and record label executives, Michael Jarrett’s Pressed For All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums is filled with interesting stories behind some of jazz music’s most historic, influential, and popular recordings. In cooperation with Jarrett and University of North Carolina Press, Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish a noteworthy excerpt from the book.

.

In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

 

.

.

Carol Friedman‘s photograph of Sun Ra was featured on the cover of the 1990 A&M album Purple Night

.

___

.

.

 

Since 1977, John Snyder has produced over 300 original recordings, 34 of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards.   He has produced albums for A & M, Atlantic, Fantasy, MusicMasters, Concord, RCA, Sony, Antilles, Verve, Private Music, Telarc, GRP, Elektra, Rounder, Columbia, Evidence, and Justin Time. 

He once worked as the assistant to president Creed Taylor of CTI Records, overseeing all legal and business affairs, publishing, manufacturing, distribution, and A&R operations.

.

Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session:

.

.

 

…..I remember Sun Ra.  We rehearsed for a week because I wanted to see what that would be like.  I made one record with him for A&M where I just kind of showed up [Blue Delight, 1989].  But we got along real well.  On the [first] date he didn’t know me, and so he just did his thing.  It was like riding a bronco and holding on.

…..The second record, I said, “We’re going to budget for rehearsals for Sun Ra, and we’re going to bring everybody in, and we are going to work everything out.”  Purple Night was three drummers, a percussionist, dozens of musicians, his usual band plus Don Cherry, an extra percussionist, and more keyboards.

…..Okay, so we know what songs we’re going to do.  We go do the rehearsals, and we’ve go the record date.  We had three nights for recording.  After the first night, I said, “Sonny, you didn’t record any of the songs we rehearsed.”

…..“John, look at it this way,” he said.  “Suppose I was a football coach, and we had a big game on Sunday.  We practiced all day, every day for the week before that.”  He said, “We never played that game we played on Sunday during practice on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday.  We just practiced for it.”

…..“Well, okay,” I said.  “But that’s not quite the same thing is it?”

…..“No, it’s the same thing.  We got used to playing together and playing in certain ways, in certain feelings, and I am just taking those things and plugging them into another format, another structure.”

…..That’s what he did.  In a sense it was the ultimate in improvisatory music, but it was as rehearsed as you could get it.  They had rehearsed being ultimately improvisatory.  They had never rehearsed exactly the same thing that they played.  That’s the difference.

…..During recording, he’d point to things and make motions.  He’d direct by playing.  In a sense Gil Evans did that, too.  Sun Ra would kind of work it around and work it like he was stirring something.  There was one particular thing, early in the session, where it was mixing and mixing, and all at once it started to boil. It was like a big round rocket ship that was moving slowly off the ground with great power and then, all of a sudden, it went.  I looked at Jay [Newland, the engineer] and said “Wow!  This is incredible.”  He was wide-eyed like, “Man, this thing that just happened was something!”  The band kept playing.  The tape ran out, and even then, on another tape seven more minutes went by before they stopped.  It was quite a trip, a good experience.

…..One time when he was playing at the Vanguard, I went down to the millinery district in the City and bought a bunch of feathers and beads to give to Sun Ra.  He was into that, colorful materials.  I went back in the kitchen, and there was Sun Ra with no shirt on, looking like a rather out-of-shape Buddha.  There were people around him, dressing him, shaving him, attending to him: his musicians and June [Tyson].  He had that kind of effect on people.  He was the guru, and they took care of him.

I thought it was fascinating.  He mistreated them, didn’t pay them very well.  One time I said to him, “Sun Ra, all your guys are so shaggy, living in your house.  What is up with that?”

…..“John,” he said, “all musicians are in some kind of jail.  My musicians are in the Sun Ra jail.”

…..“Okay.”  That’s the way he thought.   He knew his position.  He’d also talk about being from Saturn.  I didn’t even take note of that, didn’t say anything about it.  Sherman, one of the guys who worked for me, asked him, “Hey Sonny, tell me something.  Do they have pork chops on Saturn?”  That pissed him off.  He didn’t like being made fun of like that.  He didn’t even answer.

…..Sun Ra wasn’t born; he was dropped.  He was dropped in Birmingham [Alabama].  He’s probably up there on Saturn right now saying, “I told you so.”

…..I don’t really know what causes people to be the way they are.  He certainly manifested himself in interesting ways.  His detachment from Earth was reflected accurately in his music.  What people choose to be inspired by is a strange thing.

.

___

.

.

 

Listen to Sun Ra play “Friendly Galaxy” from Purple Night:

.

.

.

 

.

 

_____

.

.

From Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall. Copyright © 2016 by Michael Jarrett. Published by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu

 

 

.

.

___

 .

.

 

photo by Pamela Jarrett

Most of Michael Jarrett’s writing on jazz production appeared in Pulse!, Tower Records’ magazine. His day job, however, was professor of English at Penn State University (York Campus). In addition to .Pressed for All Time, his book about jazz record production, Jarrett wrote. Drifting on a Read: Jazz as a Model for Writing; .Sound Tracks: A Musical ABC; and .Producing Country: The Inside Story of the Great Recordings. He is now retired. He and his wife live in the village of Ojochal, on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

 

.

.

 

.

Share this:

One comments on ““Pressed for All Time,” Vol. 7 — producer John Snyder on Sun Ra’s 1990 album Purple Night

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo by Mel Levine/pinelife, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Lady Day and Prez” by Henry Wolstat

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
A very brief three-dot update…Where I’ve been, and an update on what is coming up on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Photographer uncredited, but the photo was almost certainly taken by Chuck Stewart. Published by ABC/Impulse! Records.. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“And I’m Not Even Here” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Click here to read more interviews published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Three poets and Sketches of Spain

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

Review

Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #171

Dick Cavett/via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of Black musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

Click here to visit the Jazz History Quiz archive

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive