Details: Category: Album Reviews | Published: 17 July 2015

'Mission in Space' - Scott Robinson ScienSonic Laboratories announced the release of the Scott Robinson "Spacetette" Mission in Space album featuring Marshall Allen and Henry Grimes. 

ScienSonic Laboratories announces official release of long-delayed Mission in Space, featuring Marshall Allen and Henry Grimes

(ScienSonic Laboratories)

The adventurous music label ScienSonic Laboratories has just announced the official release of Mission in Space, by the Scott Robinson "Spacetette" featuring jazz greats Marshall Allen and Henry Grimes. With the addition of veteran bassist Grimes, this is essentially the same group that recorded ScienSonic's unique 2010 two-disc, enhanced CD release, Live at Space FarmsThat album, described in All About Jazz - New York as a "substantial musical experience... suggesting the meditational realities of Cage and Stockhausen," was recorded at Space Farms in New Jersey, and made use of their amazing stone tower festooned with the Space family's antique collection of huge cast iron bells, some more than 150 years old. Where Live at Space Farms was recorded in a rural cow pasture, the new release is something different, having been captured before a packed house at John Zorn's New York City experimental music hub, the Stone... making it, as Robinson exclaims, "our first indoor recording session!"

Musically though, the new disc retains that out-of-doors feeling in a big way, being what Robinson describes in the liner notes as "the aural equivalent to an exploratory mission to an unknown planet." This otherworldly quality is effectively conveyed in the five track titles -- Landing Party, Surface Mission, Alien Encounter, Danger Planet, and Five To Beam Up -- although the music itself took place as a continuous hour of improvisation with no prior discussion (except for the decision to begin with the band ascending from the basement staircase playing the "space sound tubes" which Robinson distributed for the occasion). The distinctive sounds of the Space Farms bells are also present, thanks to a device Robinson calls the "sonic laser actuator" which enables stored sounds to be called up at will by the manipulation of laser beams strung in a harp-like frame.

All of this makes for a unique sonic document which is as unusual to listen to as it was to make. "I like playing with you," Allen remarked to Robinson after a NYC performance with the group, "cause you're doing something different!" This remark is significant, coming as it does from a man who has been a stalwart of the Sun Ra Arkestra since the 1950s -- arguably the most adventurous ensemble in improvised music, ever -- and is its respected leader today.

Also present on the album are Space Farms participants Kevin Norton and Pat O'Leary, along with the great Henry Grimes, whose appearance on bass and violin was an unforeseen bonus. Robinson explains: "Henry Grimes not only gave us the gig (he was curating that month's performances at the Stone), but then expressed interest in playing with us as well. Naturally we were all thrilled to have him join in!"

The release of this document has been long-delayed, due in part to ScienSonic's backlog of exciting projects, but also as a result of problems encountered in the manufacturing process. "We wanted to go for a very special look for this project," Robinson says, "using spot-coating to highlight certain areas in gloss, against a matte background. Done right, this can create a beautiful, multi-textured look, and I felt that this project, and the cover art we chose, deserved it. The CD was initially manufactured more than a year ago, but the factory was unable to achieve the effect we wanted... plus there were other errors made in the cover. So we never officially announced the release, although it did get pictured on the website and a few copies did make it out into the world." (Now those "error" editions will be collector's items!) "Not satisfied, we had to do some research and find someone else that could do this the right way. But meanwhile I was on the road performing, and so the whole thing was put on hold until we could have them all remanufactured and all the errors corrected, which took some time. But it was worth it... they look absolutely incredible now!" Like Space Farms, which won a "Best Album Artwork" nod from All About Jazz - New YorkMission in Space uses astonishing vintage science fiction book cover art by Richard Powers (used by exclusive agreement with the estate), and is certified by the Space Foundation as a Certified Space Imagination Product.

May 25 was chosen as the official release date for this album, as it is the ever-youthful Marshall Allen's 91st birthday. Happy Birthday, Mr. Allen!