AMN Reviews: Sun Ra Arkestra with Marshall Allen

Sun Ra Turns 100: Sun Ra Arkestra with Marshall Allen
Review by Monique Avakian

“Every light is a vibrational sight and sound…”
–Sun Ra, The Other Side of Music, 1972

The overall feel of this show collected into a vibe that still activates for the positive, days later. On October 5, 2013, the Sun Ra Arkestra played an extended two sets totaling over four hours at Lincoln Center. Those of you who play jazz know the kind of physical stamina it takes to do so. Those of you who have never seen guys well over 60 and some well over 70 play like this (and dance throughout the room up and down the stairs), well, perhaps you might become more inclined to respect your elders. Many younger folks could not even begin to handle such a feat on a physical level. Of course, the younger players in the band are also to be commended — not only for keeping up, but each leading in his/her own unique way. The level of musicianship was astounding!

On a spiritual level, the group has managed to keep the essence of Sun Ra alive and well, largely under the firm, yet warm direction of original member, Marshall Allen. Dressed like the wizard he is, Allen led with superior conduction skills, wielded largely through osmosis with the band and supported with well-timed hand signals when necessary. Since the group nears the 25 mark in number of personnel, this was really impressive to witness. Other magic conjured by Allen translated to us through the use of visual symbolism (i.e., moving his fingers rapidly near the sax keys while not touching them, but still blowing in a kinesthetic sound~poem~kind~of~way). Allen also had an electronic wind instrument that he used judiciously. Near the end, I did wish for an analog theramin. However, since the band was playing the audience like a theramin, I guess the digital element didn’t really matter.

Another digital element that also augmented the experience consisted of artist Michael Arthur drawing live on a computer screen, with his images projected above the band. His style complemented the space~vibe, especially his choice of neon green, pink and black colors. The digital medium lent itself to a fluidity that kept pace with the band pretty well. The artist’s choice of themes mainly fell into portraiture of players, but at one point, he had hands playing strings inside a circle. A magnificently potent image!

The music was just spectacular. During the second set, the tunes were arranged to alternate between free improv creations (again, with nearly 25 players!) and standards morphed a la’ Ra. Oh, and by the way, the instrumentation included acoustic full sized harp, French horn, flute, samba drum, violin, spoken word and cello along with all the usual instrumentation you’d expect. Near the end, the ultimate in funk came through (this is a percussion section of five players after all). The last four tunes in particular waved throughout the room and right through the roof of The Allen Room, showering the city with blessings and delight on a cellular, as well as stellar, level.

At first I thought the location might make Sun Ra unhappy for socio-cultural reasons, but by the end, I think the significant irony actually lent another level of space he would have appreciated, especially since it forces us to confront the very uncomfortable social realities we all keep trying to ignore.

The Sun Ra Arkestra is an uplifting, wild experience that honors the legacy of a creative radical who remains radical to this day.

The Man Himself:
Sun Ra Montreux 1976 (II): Take The A Train
Sun Ra solo mind-blowing intro, followed by band:

Sun Ra – Interview + Live Toronto 1991

NEXT SHOW in nyc:

December 13 at NUBLU
As part of the NUBLU Jazz Festival December 4-22, 2013
62 Avenue C between 4th and 5th Streets, NYC

Arkestra Today:

Sun-Ra Related Art:
Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun-Ra
El Saturn and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground 1954-68
Curated by John Corbett, Anthony Elms and Terri Kapsalis
Whitewalls books/Hyde Park Art Center

Sun Ra’s Poetry:
Sun Ra: Collected Works Vol. I: Immeasurable Equation
edited by Adam Abraham
Phaelos Books

Sun Ra Biography:
Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra
by John F. Szwed
Da Capo Press

In the half-between world, 

Dwell they: The Tone Scientists 

In notes and tone 

They speak of many things…
The tone scientists: 

Architects of planes of discipline 

Mathematically precise are they: 

The tone-scientists

~Sun Ra

Marc Ribot Trio Tour Dates (Europe and New York)

From Brooklyn Vegan:

Marc Ribot Trio — 2013 Tour Dates
October 12, 2013 De Warande – Turnhout, Belgium
October 13, 2013 De Casino – St. Niklaas, Belgium
October 14, 2013 CC Diest – Diest, Belgium
October 15, 2013 Cafe Oto – London, U.K.
October 16, 2013 Cafe Oto – London, U.K.
October 17, 2013 Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene – Oslo, Norway
October 18, 2013 Institut Francais de Berlin – Berlin, Germany
October 19, 2013 Stadtgarten – Köln, Germany
November 05, 2013 Village Vanguard – NYC
November 06, 2013 Village Vanguard – NYC
November 07, 2013 Village Vanguard – NYC
November 08, 2013 Village Vanguard – NYC
November 09, 2013 Village Vanguard – NYC
November 10, 2013 Village Vanguard – NYC

Vancouver’s Gordon Grdina finds his sweet spot between jazz and Arabic music

Gord Grdina, Jesse Zubot
Gord Grdina, Jesse Zubot (Photo credit: eva6kora)

From the Chicago Reader:

The versatile Vancouver guitarist Gordon Grdina returns to Chicago this week for a couple of concerts, and I suspect they’ll nicely encapsulate the range delivered on recordings he’s made over the last years, where a love and investment in Arabic music has leavened and expanded his already broad jazz chops. When I caught Grdina at the Hideout in September 2009, with drummer Kenton Loewen, sub bassist Kent Kessler, and trombonist Jeb Bishop, he was already absorbed in the Arabic sound, playing oud nearly as much as guitar. Last year Grdina released the impressive Her Eyes Illuminate (Songlines) with his ten-piece ensemble, Haram, convincingly demonstrating how he’d reconciled his free jazz vision with traditional Arabic music. After the jump you can check out the album’s opening track, “Raqs al Jamal.

Jazz Listings From The New York Times

Erik Friedlander at Joe's Pub, 7/17/07.


Tim Berne’s Snakeoil (Wednesday) “Shadow Man” (ECM) is the second album by Snakeoil, an investigative chamber-improv group led by the alto saxophonist Tim Berne, and featuring Oscar Noriega on clarinets, Matt Mitchell on piano and Ches Smith on drums and percussion. As with the group’s self-titled 2012 debut, this follow-up is a terrific showcase for Mr. Berne’s precisely gnarled ensemble writing, which demands an elevated level of rapport. At 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th Street, Manhattan, (212) 576-2232,; $20. (Chinen)

Erik Friedlander at the Stone (Tuesday through Oct. 20) Mr. Friedlander is a cellist with a soulful and expressive style, and he has done uniformly strong work in recent years. His weeklong residency at the Stone will begin on Tuesday with two solo cello sets, drawing respectively from “Block Ice & Propane,” an album inspired by the road trips of his childhood (at 8 p.m.), and “Volac: Book of Angels, Vol. 8” (at 10 p.m.). with pieces by a frequent collaborator, John Zorn. On Wednesday at 8 p.m. Mr. Friedlander will draw from a deeply personal new album, “Claws & Wings,” dedicated to the memory of his wife of 22 years, Lynn, who died in 2011. And, with his partners in the springy Broken Arm Trio, each of Thursday’s sets will celebrate the legacy of Oscar Pettiford. At 8 and 10 p.m., the Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, East Village,; $15 per set, $10 for students. (Chinen)

Mark Helias and Michael Formanek (Saturday) Mr. Helias and Mr. Formanek are bassists with a few things in common, including a knack for robust physicality and a taste for destabilized authority. In this concert, presented by the Sound It Out series, each will play a half-hour solo set — with the order determined by the flip of a coin — followed by an exploratory duo improvisation. At 8 p.m., Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street, West Village, (212) 242-4770,; $15, $12 for students. (Chinen)

Russ Lossing’s Three Part Invention (Wednesday) Mr. Lossing, a pianist and composer with a tireless work ethic and a fondness for reconciling mystery with concision, presents a new book of music for chamber trio, enlisting partners well suited to the task: the trumpeter Ralph Alessi and the bassist Mark Helias. At 8 p.m., IBeam, 168 Seventh Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn,; suggested donation, $10. (Chinen)

Classical Music Listings From the New York Times


Alarm Will Sound (Friday) The name of this new-music ensemble may sound incendiary in the context of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its heavily secured treasures. Yet for the first concert of its residency with the museum, the group of composer-players treads respectfully as it assembles a “permanent collection” of works by Wagner, Ives and Ligeti, with the contemporary Thomas Adès thrown in for good measure. At 7 p.m., Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, Metropolitan Museum of Art, (212) 570-3750,; $35; $15 for under 30; $1 for children ages 7 to 16, who must be accompanied by an adult. (Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim)

Axiom (Friday) Jeffrey Milarsky leads Juilliard’s contemporary music ensemble in the premiere of a new arrangement of Morton Subotnick’s “Jacob’s Room,” scored for string orchestra and electronics. Joan La Barbara is the soloist in the work, a monodrama featuring texts from sources including Virginia Woolfe’s novel of the same name. The program also includes two works by the Juilliard alumnus Jacob Druckman. At 8 p.m., Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Lincoln Center, 155 West 65th Street, (212) 769-7406,; free, but tickets are required and are available at the box office. (Schweitzer)

Silk Road Ensemble (Wednesday) This brilliant, imaginative ensemble offers a broad range of cultural traditions and instruments, including folk music. There are also newly commissioned works. With the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, its artistic director, the group offers a program featuring music by John Zorn, Angel Lam, Vijay Iyer, Giovanni Sollima, Jia Daqun and David Bruce. At 8 p.m., Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, (212) 247-7800,; $20.50 to $125. (Schweitzer)