Red Hot announces Meshell Ndegeochello-curated Sun Ra tribute album

Meshell Ndegeocello at the 2023 Blue Note Jazz Festival. Photo by Richard Bord/Getty Images.


Red Hot, a non-profit organization “dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture,” has announced the third volume of its Red Hot + Ra series of albums paying tribute to free jazz cosmonaut Sun Ra, who left Earth for the astral plane in 1993. The Magic City, named for and inspired by a 1966 Sun Ra Arkestra record, is due out April 12.

The new project is curated by the renowned, genre-agnostic musical multi-hyphenate Meshell Ndegeocello. Out today (February 13) is its lead single, “#9 Venus The Living Myth,” featuring Marshall Allen — the 99-year-old jazz warrior who’s led the Arkestra since Ra’s departure from the planet — on alto saxophone and Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI), Kojo Roney on drums, Rashaan Carter on upright bass, and Immanuel Wilkins on additional alto sax, with Ndegeocello playing keyboard and sharing vocal duties with Justin Hicks, Kenita Miller, Nio Levon, Hanna Benn, and Dan Bunny (spoken word). The song is a stealthy spin on the Sun Ra’s “Rocket Number 9,” burning slower than the original and skipping its adherence to a brisk, Big Band Era pulse, instead abandoning its orbital path and accelerating into oblivion. Listen below.

“Sun Ra’s music is a living organism, and once you immerse yourself in his work, his life, you recognize there’s a fork in the road — that you really have to make choices, because there’s so many other realms and dimensions to explore musically,” Ndegeocello said in a press statement quoted by Pitchfork. “I want people to walk away [from listening to the album by] understanding that [life] is really of your own design. The mind is the only part we really have control over, and do the best to live the life you want to live.”

Per The Magic City’s Bandcamp bio, the record will include another dozen performers across across its nine tracks, including Pink Siifu, who is credited as a vocalist on two songs. Allen gets another EWI appearance, while Ndegeocello plays on five songs total — singing and playing keyboard and bass, sometimes all on the same track. (She’s also the album’s co-producer, along with Hector Castillo.) Notably, “#9 Venus The Living Myth” is not available to stream on the project’s Bandcamp page, whereas the album’s second track, “Departure Guide of the 7 Sisters,” is.

The forthcoming project follows Red Hot & Ra’s first two volumes, both released last year — May’s Nuclear War and October’s SOLAR – Sun Ra in Brazil — and a remixed version of Vol. 1 that arrived in the interim.

Scroll down to see virtuoso jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant’s artwork for The Magic City, as well as the record’s full tracklist.

Red Hot & Ra Vol. 3 – The Magic City album art and tracklist

Red Hot announces Meshell Ndegeochello-curated Sun Ra tribute album

Art by Cécile McLorin Salvant.


1. Solipsistic Panacea (Black Antiques)

2. Departure Guide Of The 7 Sisters

3. Bedlam Blues

4. #9 Venus The Living Myth

5. El-Soul The Companion, Traveler

6. LQ1TY – 29 Years

7. Yet Differently Not- Mars Hall

8. Reproductive Manatees – Sunny Said Up!

9. The World Of Shadow