Considered by many to be a founder of Afrofuturism, Sun Ra-aka Herman Blount-was a composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, entrepreneur, poet, and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn. He recorded over 200 albums with his Arkestra, which, dressed in Egypto-space costumes, played everything from boogie-woogie and swing to fusion and free jazz. John Szwed's Space is the Place is the definitive biography of this musical polymath, who was one of the twentieth century's greatest avant-garde artists and intellectuals. Charting the whole of Sun Ra's life and career, Szwed outlines how after years in Chicago as a blues and swing band pianist, Sun Ra set out in the 1950s to impart his views about the galaxy, black people, and spiritual matters by performing music with the Arkestra that was as vital and innovative as it was mercurial and confounding. Szwed's readers-whether they are just discovering Sun Ra or are among the legion of poets, artists, intellectuals, and musicians who consider him a spiritual godfather-will find that, indeed, space is the place.
John Szwed is Adjunct Senior Research Scholar in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University and the author of several books, including Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth; So What: The Life of Miles Davis; and Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz.