The Troy Street Observer

July 12, 1956: Tom Wilson Records Sun Ra on Transition

Cover of Jazz By Sun Ra
Jazz By Sun Ra, Transition TRLP-10, released 1957.

Tom Wilson, the man of many firsts in the recording industry, started Transition Records in Cambridge with two goals. First, he wanted to record leading-edge jazz, folk, and classical musicians who were undiscovered or being ignored by the major labels. Second, he wanted to record them live, in the club or concert hall, or before a studio audience. That’s where Wilson saw the best opportunities for capturing  creative, spontaneous performances.

Wilson wasn’t restricting his search for talented musicians to Boston. Transition recorded three albums by the Detroit trumpeter Donald Byrd, including his first, Byrd Jazz, (TRLP-5) in 1955, and his most recent, Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill (TRLP-17), in May. Wilson also recorded trombonist Curtis Fuller and saxophonist Pepper Adams, also from Detroit. And he traveled to Chicago to record Sun Ra.

No major labels were looking at Sun Ra. He had released 45s on his own Saturn label, but no LPs, and the Transition session would be his first for any label other than his own. As it turned out, Transition was his only label besides Saturn in the 1950s.

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