Magic City, The June Book | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Magic City, The June Book 

Published February 16, 2005 at 7:02 p.m.

(GrainBin Music, CD)

Magic City's debut release, The June Book, is a tribute to Sun Ra Arkestra vocalist June Tyson -- "a cosmic emissary and true member of the angel race," according to the central Vermont-based band. While Tyson's divine birthright may be in question, Magic City's interpretations of Sun Ra's compositions are undoubtedly celestial.

The June Book achieves an otherworldly vibe right from the start. Featuring the dusky voice of Miriam Bernardo as well as the unorthodox guitar playing of Michael Chorney, the disc has a sonic luminescence. Fleshed out by Robinson Morse on trombone and Polly Vanderputen on cello, Magic City deliver seductive lullabies with an avant-garde sensibility.

Sun Ra's reputation as an eccentric jazz outsider has a tendency to obscure his considerable harmonic gifts. Claiming he was sent to Earth to save humanity through a mix of music and metaphysics, the composer/bandleader had many terrestrials scratching their heads. Never without his cosmic costume, Ra made the outer limits his permanent residence.

Stripped of spectacle, Magic City lay bare the core of Sun Ra's compositions, reimagining his tunes as sparse chamber pieces. The softly melancholic "They'll Come Back" features beautiful trombone and cello lines that weave in and out of Chorney's clipped guitar chords. Bernardo's vocals remain gorgeously earthy, even if the subject matter is a little spacey.

"Satellites are Spinning" is positively hypnotic, with Chorney's guitar taking on a percussive attack. His gamelan-like tones lay the foundation for a terrific trombone solo by Morse, and Vanderputen's cello lines have teeth. Like much of Sun Ra's work, universal harmony is the theme of this cut. With Bernardo singing, such utopian dreams seem perfectly attainable.

"I'll Wait for You" recasts the traditional jazz ballad as a pan-dimensional torch song. "In some far place/Many light years in space, I'll wait for you/Where human feet have never trod/I'll wait for you," Bernardo sings over the track's soft sashay. Cascading harmonies drift along like the dust from some far-off nebula, as the arrangement contracts and expands.

For those unfamiliar with Sun Ra's work, The June Book might be a great place to start. Magic City's take on the composer's tunes retain enough of his extraterrestrial attitude to be authentic, but have a soothingly down-to-earth quality. These inventive interpretations would sound great in any corner of the galaxy.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Casey Rea

Casey Rea

Casey Rea was the Seven Days music editor from 2004 until 2007. He won the 2005 John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Album Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation