“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:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published.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

In this Issue

photo courtesy John Bolger Collection
Philip Clark, author of Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, discusses the enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, whose most notable achievements came during a time of major societal and cultural change, and often in the face of critics who at times found his music too technical and bombastic.

Spring Poetry Collection

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. The first volume of this poetry is now published.

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

A now timely 2002 interview with Tim Madigan, author of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. My hope when I produced this interview was that it would shed some light on this little-known brutal massacre, and help understand the pain and anger so entrenched in the American story. Eighteen years later, that remains my hope. .

Poetry

"Sister" by Warren Goodson
"Shit's About To Go Down" -- a poem by Aurora M. Lewis

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
Charles Ingham’s “Jazz Narratives” connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. Volume 8 of the narratives are “The Entrance of Bessie Smith into San Diego”, “Lionel Hampton Is Coming to Dinner at Dr. Gordon’s House”, and “Lionel Hampton: Central Avenue Breakdown”

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #139

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Nat “King” Cole (pictured), Dexter Gordon, James Taylor and Rickie Lee Jones, and was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists. He also turned down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Short Fiction

photo Creative Commons CC0
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Frank Morgan, Michel Petrucciani/Charles Lloyd, and Emily Remler are featured

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Louis Armstrong on the Moon," by Dig Wayne

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive