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When There Is No Sun: An Eclipse Playlist

You might have heard about a certain celestial phenomenon occurring today. Cleveland, where I live, is in the path of full totality and hundreds of thousands of astronomical tourists are expected to arrive for the show. But what’s a show without music, right? So herewith a playlist of eclipse-themed music to entertain you while you’re searching for your polarized glasses.

P.S. If you were expecting a Sp*tify playlist, know that there might not be an artist here who will qualify for mini-micro-nanopayments under the company’s new compensation structure. Sp*tify can go where the sun don’t shine.

João Gilberto: Eclipse

Solar eclipses were reported to have induced fear and hysteria among the ancients, and even this morning the lines at the gas stations and supermarket checkouts are already forming. So let’s chill with the lulling, bittersweet sound of João Gilberto‘s voz e violão with this enchanting curtain-raiser.

Diamanada Galas : Eclipse

Gilberto’s suavity aside, you have to acknowledge the strangeness of darkness at 3:15 p.m. and who better to do that than the Delphic Priestess of Panic herself, Diamanda Galas? Here she is on Weird Nightmare (Columbia Records, 1992), the fifth of the tribute records curated by Hal Willner, subtitled Meditations on Mingus. That’s former Ellington trombonist Art Baron on digeridoo (it’s his chart, too), and for my Erie, PA peeps, former Gannon College pre-med student Don Alias on percussion. Told you this would get strange.

Eric Harland: Eclipse

Little did drummer Eric Harland know when he released Voyager – Live By Night (Space Time Records) in 2011 that the band he assembled someday would be hailed as a supergroup. Yet what else would you call a lineup of saxophonist Walter Smith III, guitar hero Julian Lage, Taylor Eigsti on piano and bassist Harish Raghavan? If you haven’t heard this one in a while, dig it our and give it another spin. If you don’t have it, what are you waiting for?

William Parker & The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Oglala Eclipse

Despite coming up in the projects of the South Bronx–or maybe because of it–bassist, scenemaker and great spirit William Parker derives abundant inspiration from the natural world, and you can almost hear nature awakening in the motile churning of this cut from Mayor of Punkville (Aum Fidelity, 2000). The list of dedicatees of this cut runs almost as long as the personnel list of Parker’s band, and includes Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers and Tatanka-Iyotanka (a/k/a Sitting Bull).

Gil Evans: Lunar Eclipse

While we’re on the big band tip, here’s Gil Evans from 1977 as released on Priestess (Antilles Records, 1983). Yeah, I know that it’s a solar eclipse we’re talking about here, but I just love the wild and wooly big band Evans convened late in his career. This edition of the Ork included Hannibal Marvin Peterson and Ernie Royal on trumpets, Howard Johnson and Bob Stewart on tubas and the altos of both Arthur Blythe and David Sanborn. Who puts bands together like that anymore?

Billy Cobham: Total Eclipse

The first jazz record I bought was Billy Cobham‘s Crosswinds (Atlantic Records, 1974). My 19-year-old self was captivated by the adrenalized charts and the leader’s stupefying drum chops. So when Total Eclipse came out later in the year, snagging it (at cost plus five percent; I worked at a store that sold records) was a no-brainer. The proggy vibe and Ken Scott’s production haven’t aged gracefully, but what a thrill it is to hear the Brecker Brothers and John Abercrombie throwing down at the beginning of their careers.

Sun Ra: When There Is No Sun

Curiously, in a catalog brimming with astrophysical references, there seem to be no eclipse-themed titles by Sun Ra. But you can’t have a playlist like this without Sun Ra. So he should have the last word on this lovely quartet date with trumpeter Michael Ray, drummer Luqman Ali and the great John Gilmore on tenor.

The sky is a sea of darkness
When there is no sun to light the way
. . .

Enjoy the heavenly spectacle and remember to wear your safety glasses!

JJA bug