For the second year in a row, the Sun Ra Arkestra will celebrate Halloween at Johnny Brenda’s tonight. Under the leadership of multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen, the spirit of enigmatic founder Sun Ra lives on through the Arkestra’s galactic funk and soul performance. Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here; watch the band’s Tiny Desk Concert below.
“High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.
This Monday, Johnny Brenda’s will host a show that’s become a standing Philly tradition: a spaced-out afrofuturistic psychedelic New-Orleans-style big band-tastic freaky Halloween celebration courtesy the Sun Ra Arkestra. The show is an outright spectacle as they try to find room not only for all the many Arkestra members, on the precious real estate of the Brenda’s stage, but for all the swinging horns as well.
For this installment of High Key we caught up with Dave Davis, who’s blown a trombone with the Arkestra for over twenty years, and who never misses a gig. Davis is decidedly soft-spoken and understated, and as he spins tale after tale about his history and career among Philly arts giants you lean in, and hang on his words. He’s engaging, charming, the personified illustration of the benefits of pursuing your dreams and following your heart, and he has this wide-eyed-kid-from-Kansas exuberance about having lived in and loved Philly that, for him, makes even the advantage of big city public transit something to be excited about without a trace of irony. With a slow, easy smile, Davis manages to share that infectious, refreshing exuberance so relatably, both in his words and in his music.
Philly’s beloved Arkestra suffered the passing of its founder in 1993, but the now 92-year-old maestro and director Marshall Allen hasn’t lost a step yet in keeping up the traditions, from international stages to regularly local engagements all over the city as well, from the Art Museum’s “Art After 5” Program to local jazz festivals to favorite Philly clubs like Brenda’s. Although this holiday’s event at is already sold out, as always, opportunities to catch them live in Philly abound, as the band continue to be as prolific and active on the touring circuit as ever.
To this day, the Arkestra still convenes for rehearsals at Sun Ra’s West Philly home, and when asked about the latest horizons, Davis notes at the wealth of the untapped archives that the band is still combing through and bringing to life. “He has a stack of music that’s never been played,” says Davis of the late composer and bandleader Sun Ra. “He wrote a tune everyday for The Creator. He has a lotta tunes that he recorded on tapes, so we’re constantly playing new Sun Ra music.” Continue reading →
Even though the legendary jazz musician Sun Ra left the planet when he passed away 1993, the spirit, soul and music of the Sun Ra Arkestra has continued to live on under the direction of Marshall Allen. Continue reading →
Philly jazz / space odyssey legends Sun Ra Arkestra play a free show tonight at Spruce Street Harbor Park. If you’ve never experienced this shimmeringly-attired crew’s journey’s into the outer rim, get thee to the river and let this dozen-to-twenty-ish member collective change how you experience music. More information at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →
Add another awesome nearby festival to the already long list that’s been assembled so far this summer. Fields Festival, taking place August 19-21 in Darlington, MD’s Camp Ramblewood, is a music and arts fest that is totally DIY and sponsor-free.
Roughly midway between Baltimore and Philadelphia, Fields Fest will showcase loads of experimental music acts, as well as film screenings, art exhibits, comedy acts, dance, and poetry. The festival is occurring for the second time, after the first go-around in 2014 was a success. Continue reading →
“Space is the place” that the Sun Ra Arkestra will take you to, but Johnny Brenda’s was the place that they sold out this Halloween night, as fans leaned in over the balcony, lined the stairway, and pushed up against the walls to be escorted into the unknown by the seminal Philly free jazz collective. Continue reading →
The Sun Ra Arkestra is, to put it simply, an experience. A concoction of far too many genres to list, the off-kilter big band will be performing for free as part of the 40th Street Summer Series on the University of Pennsylvania campus at 40th and Walnut. They will be joined by The South Pacific Island Dancers on August 29th to create an event that should not be missed. Music will begin at 6 p.m. and you can find more information here. Continue reading →
Mixing behind-the-scenes footage of the DC punk scene in the 90s and photography by Jim Saah, the new Salad Days documentary is a snapshot into the scene that gave us boundary-pushing artists Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses and more. The film screens tonight at the URBN Annex Black Box Theater, followed by a live set from Mumblr. Tickets and more information can be found here. Continue reading →
How did that big band squeeze into such a small space? Well, that was the case when the Sun Ra Arkestra performed a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR Music on Halloween. Led by 91-year-old alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, the eight piece costumed Arkestra huddled around one microphone and a couple of ambient room mics and performed four songs: “Along Came Ra”/”Zoom,” “Queer Notions,” “Angels And Demons At Play,” and “Interplanetary Music.” The fantastic energy is noticeable from the first second the Tiny Desk Concerts starts and then escalates into a full blown jazz happening. Continue reading →
Lest it be overlooked amid all the (well-deserved) attention paid to their final show, The Walkmen were just one of about nine acts on the stage at Union Transfer last Wednesday, from Spank Rock to Sun Ra Arkestra, all of who performed to benefit the first phase of The Rail Park. In case you weren’t aware, the project is a planned 3-mile linear park and recreation path along the former Philadelphia and Reading rail line, spanning some 50 city blocks and running through a diverse cross-section of neighborhoods. Organizers at The Rail Park were elated in the wake of the event, posting to their Facebook page:
We are still on cloud nine after Wednesday’s Rail Park fundraiser at Union Transfer. What a way to wrap up an incredible year for this project! Our deepest thanks and appreciation to all who helped organize the event, who brought their talents to the evening, and who came out in support of the project.
For more information on The Rail Park, watch a short video after the jump; below, check out a gallery of photos from the benefit, which also included Light Heat, Sharon Van Etten collaborating with Adam Granduciel of War on Drugs and Birdie Busch.