Marshall Allen: A Universe of Achievement

Marshall Allen
Image via Wikipedia

Marshall Allen writes about his recent honors.

It feels good to be receiving this Lifetime Achievement Award at the Vision Festival this month. Whenever somebody achieves something worthy, it’s great to be recognized for it. The musicians who have received this award in the past include people that I have performed with, know and respect. I have received things like this before, like the Bluebird Award in Germany and some honorary mentions, but this award means a lot.

The years have gone by so fast. It seems like yesterday when I first joined the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1958. It is amazing that 51 years have passed. When I stop and think about it, it is like… Damn!

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Go Left Fest Coming to Yoshis san Francisco

Yoshis San Francisco location is hosting a festival featuring free-jazz luminaries. This is the work of their new music director.

“Go Left Fest” Featuring Marshall Allen, Ishmael Reed, Roswell Rudd, Matthew Shipp and more
8pm shows: $40 or buy the $65 two-day package!

celebrating with
Sun Ra Arkestra Leader MARSHALL ALLEN –
Distinguished Author ISHMAEL REED –
BETH CUSTER and more

Yoshi’s Inaugural “Go Left Fest: Where Creative Arts Collide” is intended to showcase some of the most creative and adventurous improvisors, authors and composers “out there.” The festival will feature performances by, among others: legendary 85 year-old Sun Ra Arkestra leader and saxophonist Marshall Allen, noted author Ishmael Reed, pianist Matthew Shipp, trombonist Roswell Rudd, drummer Sunny Murray, pianist Myra Melford-Mark Dresser duo, bassist Joe Morris, clarinetist/saxophonist Beth Custer, saxophonist Oluyemi Thomas and more.

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Releases Reviews

DMG Newsletter June 12th, 2009

From DMG:

Joe Lovano/Masada Quintet! Billy Bang/Shoji Hano! Joelle Leandre/George Lewis! The Sun Ra Arkestra 2008! Steve Swell Planet Dream! Lussier/Tetreault/Yoshihide! Gustafsson’s The Things 2 CD set! Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson /Peter Evans! OffOnOff!

24-bit Mark Powell remasters of Canterbury faves: National Health, Soft Heap, Gilgamesh, Daevid Allen!

A Luc Ferrari 10 CD Set! Two Albert Mangelsdorff Boxes! Two Dave Liebman/Richie Beirach Mosaic Boxes! Asian Improv Catalogue Sale! Large Batch of new Esoteric Progressive Reissue!

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All About Jazz Reviews

From All About Jazz:

10-Jun-09 Sun Ra
Sun Ra (featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold) (ESP Disk)
Reviewed by Jerry D’Souza

10-Jun-09 Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy
Spirit Moves (Greenleaf Music)
Reviewed by Martin Longley

09-Jun-09 Steve Lehman Octet
Travail, Transformation, and Flow (Pi Recordings)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

08-Jun-09 Tyft
Smell The Difference (Skirl Records)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

07-Jun-09 Joelle Leandre / William Parker
Live At Dunois (Leo Records)
Reviewed by Glenn Astarita

06-Jun-09 Rashied Ali
Rashied Ali: Meditations, Live in Europe and Art-Work
Reviewed by Kurt Gottschalk

06-Jun-09 Multiple Artists
Solo Septuagenarian/Octogenerian Piano: Abdullah Ibrahim, Ran Blake, Paul Bley & Martial Solal
Reviewed by Ken Dryden

06-Jun-09 Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Reviewed by Stuart Broomer

06-Jun-09 Steve Swell
Steve Swell: Magical Listening Hour & Planet Dream
Reviewed by Wilbur MacKenzie

06-Jun-09 Peter Brötzmann
Peter Brötzmann – Sweet Sweat & The Brain of the Dog in Section
Reviewed by Ted Gordon

06-Jun-09 Multiple Artists
Bass Clarinetists: Rudi Mahall, Matt Lavelle & Jacques Foschia
Reviewed by Fred Bouchard

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This Week at Ars Nova Workshop

From Philly’s Ars Nova:

Wednesday, June 10, 8pm
+ Anri Sala‘s Long Sorrow
+ Network for New Music with Todd Reynolds (video installation by Laurie
Olinder and Bill Morrison)

Thursday, June 11, 8pm
+ Anri Sala’s Long Sorrow
+ Network for New Music with Todd Reynolds (video installation by Laurie
Olinder and Bill Morrison)

The Royal Theater, 1524 South Street
$20 General Admission

Friday, June 12, 8pm
with Odean Pope, tenor saxophone; and Sunny Murray, drums

Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th Street
$12 General Admission

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A proper birthday for Sun Ra’s successor

P1010210 "Marshall Allen" "Sun ...
Image by andynew via Flickr

Marshall Allen‘s birthday is celebrated:

Celebrating the Germantown transplant, who died in 1993 at age 79, has become a preoccupation of labels like Atavistic and Evidence, which are bringing out previously unreleased recordings from Ra’s own Saturn imprint. While Ra and his merry men, the Arkestra, played themselves in the 1974 film Space Is the Place, recent documentaries like Brother From Another Planet and local director Ephraim Asili’s new Points on a Space Age flourish. Philly’s ICA even has a Sun Ra Arkestra exhibit running until August.

Yet for all this acclaim, little has been allocated to Ra’s eventual successor and Arkestra leader, saxophonist Marshall Allen.

Sunday’s sold-out Ars Nova Arkestra concert and 85th birthday party for Allen at Johnny Brenda’s helped rectify that.

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Upcoming Ars Nova Workshop Shows

From Philly’s Ars Nova

Sunday, May 24 | 8pm
Sun Ra Arkestra
In celebration of Maestro Marshall Allen’s 85th birthday and the 95th anniversary of Sun Ra’s arrival on Earth

Johnny Brenda’s
1201 Frankford Avenue

Event Description:
Ars Nova Workshop presents a very special performance of the Sun Ra Arkestra in celebration of the 85th birthday of Marshall Allen. Join us for complimentary Moon Pies, a special midnight toast and DJ hi-res spinning classic jazz and breaks. Archival films featuring the Arkestra and Sun Ra will be projected on two large screens throughout the evening. You don’t want to miss this!

As a young musician, Marshall Belford Allen (b. May 25, 1924) performed with pianist Art Simmons, Don Byas and James Moody before enrolling in the Paris Conservatory of Music. After relocating to Chicago, Allen became a pupil of Sun Ra, subsequently joining the Arkestra in 1958 and leading Sun Ra’s formidable reed section for the next 40 years. Marshall, along with John Gilmore, June Tyson and James Jacson, lived, rehearsed, toured and recorded with Sun Ra almost exclusively for much of Sun Ra’s musical career. As a member of the Arkestra, Allen pioneered the Free Jazz movement of the early sixties, having remarkable influence on the leading voices in the avant-garde. He is featured on over 200 Sun Ra recordings in addition to collaborations with Phish, Sonic Youth, Digable Planets and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Marshall assumed the position of maestro in 1995, following the ascension of Sun Ra in 1993 and John Gilmore in 1995. Marshall continues to be committed to the study, research and development of Sun Ra’s musical precepts and has launched the Sun Ra Arkestra into a dimension beyond that of mere “ghost” band by writing fresh arrangements of Sun Ra’s music, as well as composing new music and arrangement for the Arkestra. He works unceasingly to keep the big-band tradition alive.

Friday, June 5 | 8pm
Darcy James Argue’s
Secret Society

International House Philadelphia
3701 Chestnut Street

Event Description:
Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based composer-bandleader Darcy James Argue directs Secret Society, a “powerful and well-stocked ensemble” (New York Times) featuring his “ambitious, sprawling, mesmerizing” music (Montreal Gazette). Secret Society is an 18-piece steampunk bigband that envisions an alternative musical history, one in which the dance orchestras that ruled the Swing Era never went extinct, but continued to evolve with the times, remaining a vital part of the musical landscape straight through the present day. Argue’s compositions bring together “a big, broad musical vocabulary” (New York Times), one which invokes “Duke Ellington and minimalism and Tortoise and Funkadelic and Elliott Carter and much else besides melding into one floating, shifting, dodging music” (

Secret Society includes powerful soloists like Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Sam Sadigursky (saxophones), and Ryan Keberle (trombone), and is anchored by the “scarily good” ( rhythm section of Matt Clohesy (bass) and Jon Wikan (drums). The group headlined a night at the 2008 New Languages Festival, a performance All About Jazz called “the highlight of the evening.” They have performed at a variety of venues around NYC, including Le Poisson Rouge, the Jazz Gallery, the Living Theatre, Makor, Flux Factory, and the Bowery Poetry Club, and recently completed a tour of Eastern Canada. Their debut recording will be released on New Amsterdam Records in May 2009.

Argue has made international appearances at the Cologne Jazz Festival and the International Association for Jazz Education Conference in Toronto. He is also a founding member of the New York composers’ federation Pulse, who have presented projects featuring John Abercrombie, John McNeil, and Pete McCann. He was selected for the Brooklyn Philharmonic Composer Mentorship Program, and his work Body Double, for string quartet and tapan, was premiered by percussionist Svet Stoyanov and members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic at the the Music Off The Walls series at the Brooklyn Museum. Argue penned the arrangements for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s collaborations with jazz-soul songstress Lizz Wright, alt-country artist Shelby Lynne, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.

Argue’s awards and commissions include the Jazz Gallery’s Large Ensemble Commissioning Series, the BMI Charlie Parker Composition Prize/Manny Albam Commission, the SOCAN/IAJE Emerging Jazz Composer Award, the SOCAN Award for Composition, the Down Beat Student Music Award, and grants from Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, and the Canada Council for the Arts. In addition to his own groups, Argue’s music has been performed by the BMI New York Jazz Orchestra, the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, the University of North Texas Jazz Repertory Ensemble, the NEC Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, the McGill Jazz Orchestra, and others.

Argue was mentored by legendary jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer. He has also studied with Lee Hyla, Randall Woolf, Maria Schneider, and John Hollenbeck. He maintains a lively blog at, which features commentary, photos, and live recordings.

Friday, June 12 | 8pm
Odean Pope + Sunny Murray
Odean Pope, tenor saxophone
Sunny Murray , drums

Philadelphia Art Alliance
251 S. 18th Street

Event Description:
Sunny Murray was one of the early avant-garde’s most inventive and influential drummers, doing a great deal to establish the role of the drums in free improvisation. Although Murray could swing as hard as anyone, he often abandoned the drums’ traditional timekeeping role. Born in 1936, Murray performed at first with traditional artists like Red Allen and Willie “The Lion” Smith, but soon branched out into more adventurous territory with Jackie McLean and Ted Curson. His big break, however, came when he joined Cecil Taylor’s group in 1959, which allowed him to improvise at a far more advanced level.

While touring Europe with Taylor, Murray met Albert Ayler, and wound up joining his band in 1964; through 1967, Murray appeared on most of the saxophonist’s greatest free jazz sessions. He also worked with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and John Tchicai, and made his first albums as a leader with 1965’s Sunny’s Time Now (for Jihad) and 1966’s Sunny Murray Quintet (for the seminal ESP), the latter of which helped him win Down Beat’s New Star award. In 1968, Murray traveled to France, where he played with Archie Shepp and recorded as a leader for Affinity and BYG Actuel; returning to the U.S. in 1971, Murray settled in Philadelphia and formed a group called the Untouchable Factor, which he led off and on through varying lineups. Today, he resides in Paris and continues to perform and record regularly.

Grounded in the Baptist spirituals of his youth followed by a musical upbringing in Philadelphia with the likes of John Coltrane and organist Jimmy Smith as mentors, tenor saxophonist Odean Pope is the bridge between hard bop and free. His contributions to jazz are of major historical significance and through his over two decade long fruitful association with drummer Max Roach, groundbreaking saxophone choir, trio and quartet work and educational outreach he has influenced generations of musicians. At the same time, Pope cannot be pigeonholed and he has managed to maintain his creativity by continuing to innovate and perfect his sound.

He remains an incredibly busy and active musician with many recent releases in a variety of settings. These sessions showcase his saxophone choir, Locked & Loaded Live at the Blue Note (Half Note, 2006); his spiritual horn recorded au natural, Serenity (CIMPoL, 2007); an inventive tribute to Max Roach, To The Roach (CIMP, 2006); a deliciously funky hip hop jazz fusion, The Misled Children Meet Odean Pope (Porter, 2008); and an exciting trio date with drummer Sunny Murray and bassist Lee Smith, Plant Life (Porter, 2008).

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‘Pathways to Unknown Worlds’ – Beamed From Tomorrow to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia

Sun Ra
Sun Ra (via

A Sun Ra display is reviewed.

The jazz musician Sun Ra, ambassador from the Airy Kingdom World Tomorrow, creator of Enterplanetary Solar Exploding Music, and founder of the Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra, is a hero of mine.

To my ears he was not only a genius composer, keyboardist and bandleader, but also constantly surprising. One minute he’s playing elevator schmaltz; then he’s making you float on air; then he’s making you deaf. I love that he was a sharp dresser, sort of kingly, sort of queenly, in faux leopard-skin capes and miner’s hats with lights.

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All About Jazz Reviews

From All About Jazz:

23-Apr-09 Mark Feldman / Uri Caine / Greg Cohen / Joey Baron
Secrets (Tzadik)
Reviewed by Warren Allen

23-Apr-09 Michael Blake / Kresten Osgood
Control This (Clean Feed Records)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

23-Apr-09 Sun Ra
Sun Ra: Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold (ESP Disk)
Reviewed by John Sharpe

21-Apr-09 Michael Marcus
Lotus Symphony (NotTwo Records)
Reviewed by John Sharpe

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Mode Records Releases

Sun Ra
Sun Ra (via

From Mode Records:

The Respect Sextet: Sirius Respect – The Respect Sextet play the music of Sun Ra and Stockhausen

Garth Knox: Viola Spaces

Peter Ablinger: 33-127

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