This collection came to me by way of Eugene Chadbourne, who got it from a guy who offered him a copy of “the Sun Ra band book” a few years ago. No idea who that guy was, or if this was actually the band book at one point (see comment below), but he provided a very nice collection of over 90 charts from Sun Ra covering 1936-1978. Most were composed by Sun Ra, but there are also charts by Ronald Boykins, Julian Priester, Marshall Allen and others.
For me, part of the fascination with this music is seeing the evolution of Sun Ra’s name. The earliest chart, from December 1936, is credited to Sonny Blount. A few years later we see the introduction of Herman Poole Blount. 1952 is the first time in this collection that credit is given to “Sun Ra” followed by variations including Le Sonyr Ra (or Le Sony’r Ra) or Le Sun Ra. John Szwed’s “Space Is The Place” includes some interesting discussions on the evolution of Sun Ra’s name and the various names for the Arkestra.
With a couple of exceptions all of these charts appear complete. Many are fairly basic lead sheets or piano versions (though interestingly many do not have written chord changes), a few are fully fleshed out arrangements. Based on the date and this post, I believe the “unknown” chart to be “Out of Sight” but I cannot find a recording for comparison.
All of these charts are provided for academic purposes only. Buy Sun Ra’s recordings, go see the Arkestra if they come to your town, support the music as best you can, preferably by performing these tunes to keep the music alive.
If you find any errors, please let me know here.