|On Eclipse Day, Aug. 21, 2017, ScienSonic Laboratories released Heliosonic Toneways, Vol. 1, a 50th anniversary celebration of The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra. This historic large ensemble recording reunites original participant Marshall Allen (now 94) with the original recording engineer and the astonishing bass marimba that Sun Ra played on the 1965 LP, along with a cast of some of New York’s most creative improvisors. Since we at ScienSonic Laboratories have been advertising the fact that this unique album was submitted for Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy consideration, we feel that we need to let all of you know what happened.
When Grammy voting opened a few days ago, we discovered that Heliosonic Toneways had been denied entry into the Large Jazz Ensemble category. Instead, it was shunted into the regular Jazz Ensemble category where it is buried among the more than 380 entries (as opposed to about 50 for Large Ensemble).
This came as a surprise to us, considering that the NARAS website specifies a minimum of nine players to qualify for Large Ensemble… and the Heliosonic Tone-Tette consists of ten (with every member playing on every track).
Why was this done? We don’t know… and they aren’t saying. We were told only that the album was “CAREFULLY SCREENED by our committees and their decision is final.” Since the minimum personnel requirement was met, it’s hard not to conclude that the committee reacted unfavorably to the highly unusual nature of this music, as well as its unorthodox instrumentation (bass marimba, timpani, piccolo, theremin etc.), which perhaps did not sound “big band-y” enough to committee ears.
There are no sour grapes here at ScienSonic Laboratories! We did not expect any award… only the right to compete with the other large ensembles, some of which are in fact smaller than the Tone-Tette. Any NARAS voters who are so inclined can still find Heliosonic Toneways, with some effort, among the 380-plus Jazz Ensemble entries. Better yet, forget about the Grammies and show your support by picking up a copy – and perhaps becoming a Laboratory Member! – at www.sciensonic.net
Pursuing a chance at a Large Ensemble Grammy nomination has been a distraction (and an expense). We will now return our efforts to bringing you our highly imaginative projects, music that doesn’t fit into the neat little boxes: our “Worlds of Tomorrow Through Sound.” Many thanks to our loyal and adventurous listeners. They don’t fit into the little boxes either!
Scott Robinson and the Heliotones to debut at NYC’s Jazz Standard on Tues. Oct. 31, 2017: a Halloween Spectacular!
The Jazz Standard – one of NYC’s most important and prestigious clubs – has asked us to present a special Halloween show featuring a sextet of musicians drawn mainly from the new Heliosonic Toneways album. Besides Robinson on tenor/bass/slide saxophones and theremin – and the actual bass marimba played by Sun Ra – the group will include trumpeter Philip Harper, pianist/organist Gary Versace, trombonist Frank Lacy, bassist Pat O’Leary and drummer Matt Wilson.
The music will combine daring improvisations with fun and swinging Sun Ra tunes, and will be a visual and aural treat. There will be a costume contest, with prizes! Big fun.
Robinson’s last foray as leader at the Standard garnered a multi-photo spread in The New York Times, calling it “an impressive workout… negotiated with staggering agility,” noting that the show “suggested both the spooky theatricality of a Halloween special and the vintage futurism of the Sun Ra Arkestra.” And it wasn’t even Halloween! This year’s actual Halloween appearance will embody those worlds, and many more. We hope to see you there.
For more info, please visit http://www.jazzstandard.com/?event=20171031