Nevertheless, the mixing of jazz with dance beats tends to be a pretty iffy proposition—jazz rhythm tends to be looser than house or techno, their basslines generally serve very different sorts of functions, most dance producers are simply not ace improvisers, etc. That's one reason Detroit vet Mike Huckaby's new series of jazz re-edits is intriguing. Rather than attempting to update the tracks with new tricks, he opts to do all the edits on reel-to-reel and utilizes only the source material—no extra programming or effects.
Not that the Sun Ra catalog is short of those things, even when he recorded relatively dry—the opening title shout of "There's a Change in the Air," from 1974, is ringed with echo, but for the most part there's little reverb. It meanders a lot, but Huckaby's reworking is far shapelier—a meaty electric piano riff that sounds like it could have come from a contemporary Fela record takes a minute for the Arkestra to get to, but Huckaby fixes on it right away, and where saxophonist Marshall Allen goes duck-calling at a couple of points, here his dry blowing gets coequal focus with the piano. But it's the keyboard's B-riff, accompanied with a fluttering little guitar lick, that occupies most of Huckaby's edit. It digs in nicely—maybe you need a four-kick to acclimate your feet, but probably not.
Sun Ra recorded "UFO" in May 1979; it was a brief live staple around that time, but not released until Art Yard issued it as part of On Jupiter in 2005. It's a straightforward disco track, very much of its time, more commercially minded than the keyboard workouts of '78's Lanquidity, but still too rough to approach Crusaders-like crossover (or even P-Funky—see Taylor Richardson's Eddie Hazel-ish guitar solo), even if "UFO" had landed on a major label. (Ra self-issued most of his music during his lifetime, anyway—another parallel with the Detroit dance world.) Huckaby's nips and tucks are judicious, keeping the essential groove intact—a groove that's bumpy, weird and likable.