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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sun Ra Arkestra at Parks on Tap, Algiers at Johnny Brenda’s

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Space is The Place for the mythical Sun Ra Arkestra, but tonight so is Parks on Tap. The Twilight Music Festival welcomes the eclectic ensemble for a night of futuristic jazz, funk and soul at the free event. Founded and led by Sun Ra until his death in 1993, the group is now led by multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen as they carry on the spirit of Ra. Watch The Arkestra’s Tiny Desk sesssion below. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Sun Ra Arkestra, Anthony Braxton and more to play inaugural October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Inspired by jazz great Bill Dixon’s 1964 gathering of a similar name, Ars Nova Workshop and FringeArts have announced a new “deep listening festival” happening this fall called The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music. Scheduled for October 5th through the 8th and based at the riverfront HQ of FringeArts, OctRev revives a pivotal moment in jazz history with a new crop of boundary-pushing artists.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brenda’s, Foals at Electric Factory, Frank Turner at World Cafe Live at The Queen

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

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.

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The High Key Portrait Series: Dave Davis of Sun Ra Arkestra

Dave Davis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Dave Davis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

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 →

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Sun Ra Arkestra transformed Johnny Brenda’s for a Sold Out Halloween show

Josh Pelta-Heller at Johnny Brendas | Photo by: Josh Pelta-Heller
Josh Pelta-Heller at Johnny Brendas | Photo by: Josh Pelta-Heller

“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 →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Salad Days at URBN, Sun Ra Arkestra at Ardmore Music Hall, Richard Lloyd at John and Peter’s and more

Salad Days
Government Issue | photo by Jim Saah | http://jimsaah.com/
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 →

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Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Sun Ra’s cult film, Space Is The Place

Photo via http://www.egotripland.com/gallery/sun-ra-space-is-the-place-movie/24431/
Photo via http://www.egotripland.com/gallery/sun-ra-space-is-the-place-movie/24431/

Under the helm of jazz musician Marshall Allen since the early Nineties when Sun Ra died, the Sun Ra Arkestra are going as strong as ever.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of Sun Ra’s cult film, Space Is The Place, an Afrofuturist science fiction film made in 1972 and released in 1974. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Bruce Warren’s favorite reissues of 2014

The Allman Brothers | Photo by Jim Marshall
The Allman Brothers | Photo by Jim Marshall

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, XPN Program Director Bruce Warren shares his favorite reissues of the year.

Some of the best “new” music I heard this year was old music. Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Tears For Fears all got the reissue/remaster/bonus track treatment in 2014. Dylan released The Basement Tapes Complete, and Miles Davis completists must put their hands on every second of his 1970 Fillmore concerts. Personally I think 2014 was better in the reissue department than the new music department. Here’s a list of some of the best reissues of 2014. Continue reading →

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Watch the Sun Ra Arkestra perform a Tiny Desk Concert

sunra
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 →