Sun Ra Arkestra at Gorilla

By Steven Pankhurst | 11 March 2015

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For more than half a century now, the Sun Ra Arkestra has been an institution for the mediation of jazz history, beginning with darkest blues up to the most audacious musical pioneer work in the field of free jazz and way beyond that – the infinite cosmic distances of the ‘Omniversum’. The Arkestra does not present a certain style. When you listen to the vast collection of its recordings, you appreciate that Its performances include all styles in jazz history. The Arkestra does not perform concerts in the conventional sense, but its presents a selection of tunes from all black music periods.

The ninety-year-old Marshall Allen, who is currently leading the Arkestra, has been Sun Ra’s most faithful companion from the end of the 1950s up to the master’s death in 1993. He leads the Arkestra with a relentless buoyancy and stringency in the true spirit of Sun Ra. Hundreds of musicians have played with him and the permanent core members during the Arkestra’s past 50 years, including Pharoah Sanders, Marion Brown, Julian Priester, Tommy Turrentine, Don Cherry…and even John Cage, with whom an LP was recorded.

The Sun Ra Arkestra is certainly a singular phenomenon in jazz history. The band’s historic significance may well be compared to that of the big bands of Duke Ellington or Count Basie. Sun Ra played and arranged for the legendary orchestra of Fletcher Henderson in 1946/47 and, during the second half of the 20th century, he, together with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, had a formative influence on the development of the ‘New Thing’ movement. With the Sun Ra Arkestra, the conventional musical instruments were, for the first time, electronically amplified and had a considerable influence on the development of rock and pop music.

All of this should be considered when the Arkestra’s musicians come on stage under the leadership of Marshall Allen. A long tradition and the ‘principle hope’ can be felt. Old African rites and a hopeful cosmos are the sources for the group’s inexhaustible energy. Their colourful, exotic appearance and those unusual sounds offer a premonition of what may be around other than our daily life and the things with which we are primarily occupied. Anything possible has so far been tried by humanity, while the Arkestra, in the true sense of the master, tries … the impossible.


Date: Sunday 22nd March 2015
Venue: Gorilla
Price: £25
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