“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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
A tribute to the jazz musician Sun Ra curated by King Britt and choreographer/visual artist Kate Watson-Wallace will take place at Fringe Arts on Friday, June 6. The event is a live improvisational “re-contextualization” of Sun Ra’s music featuring Tendai Maraire of Shabazz Palaces on percussion, Vernon Reid of Living Color on guitar, King Britt on beats and electronics, Anthony Tidd on bass, vocalist Imani Izuri, and Marlo Reynolds on keyboards. Live video will be provided by Jason Senk and “movement” by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko of Philadiction Movement. The event, says King Britt, is the first of several that “music/multidimensional events” that the Fringe is presenting in its new space.
The jazz musician, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, relocated to the Germantown section of Philadelphia in 1968 where he resided until his death in 1993. King Britt came up with the idea of a tribute to Sun Ra since it was close to Sun Ra’s birthday. “I suggested we do a tribute to him by creating a beautiful ensemble of music, video and dance,” Britt told me in an e-mail. “Everyone involved has been touched by Ra and his legacy. Sun Ra always embraced the art of improvisation within a construct of his compositions. He also embraced technology and used it in a way that propelled the music to new places.”
“We felt that everyone involved would be comfortable in this context and non obvious samples and loops, from some of Sun Ra’s improvs, will steer the direction of the journey,” said Britt. “Everyone involved, including video, which will be mixed live, are all very good improvisors and it will be a one time only experience. This is event is important because it will bridge the gap between generations. A lot of the older Sun Ra fans will love to witness a new spin on his legacy and the young fans who have come to know Sonny, through samples, hip hop and alternative music, will get to learn a bit of the history through multidisciplinary lenses.”
Go here for tickets and more information about the show. Below, check out a documentary about Sun Ra by film maker Robert Mugge, A Joyful Noise.
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.Continue reading →
The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock, Light Heat, Jeff Ziegler and Mary Lattimore, Birdie Busch, and the Dufalo Brothers are playing Union Transfer on Wednesday, December 4th. The show is a benefit for Phase One of the Rail Park with all the proceeds going to the Friends of the Rail Park, a non-profit that has been advocating the planning, designing and envisioning of a continuous 3-mile linear park along the former Philadelphia & Reading Rail line corridor. Friends of the Rail Park outlined their vision and plans last Spring, outlined in this article about it in Hidden City Philadelphia. Nathaniel Popkin writes:
The proposed park meets the elevated Reading Viaduct just east of and directly below Broad Street at the section of the railway known as the SEPTA Spur. The 1/5 mile long, elevated Spur–which will undergo an $8 million transformation into a park beginning in 2014–together with the City Branch, which is also owned predominantly by SEPTA, would constitute a two mile long linear rails-to-trails park, connecting the Callowhill neighborhood to Fairmount Park. The rest of the railroad viaduct heading north from the SEPTA Spur is owned by the Reading Corporation. The firm, based in California, has demonstrated little interest in selling the Viaduct to the City of Philadelphia.
The new below-grade park would extend from two points at the east end: the connection to the SEPTA Spur, where the rail viaduct dips under Broad Street (which is a bridge over the railway) and at Broad and Buttonwood in front of the School District Administration building. A key to the plan is the planned reconstruction of the Broad Street bridge, owned by PennDOT. Planners hope to convince the agency to install see-through railings and to puncture the bridge with light towers that are to be installed in the center of North Broad (lighting the space above and below). The parking lot now in front of the School District building would be replaced with a multi-level public space leading to the park.
Take a tour of the proposed Rail Park in this video below.
Get tickets to the Friends of the Rail Park benefit with The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock, Light Heat, Jeff Ziegler, Mary Lattimore, Birdie Busch and the Dufalo Brothers here.
The Philadelphia United Jazz Festival takes place this Friday, September 13th through Sunday, September 22nd in Center City. Organized by jazz musician and educator Warren Oree and Graziella D’Amelio of the LifeLine Music Coalition, the festival opens this Friday, September 13th with “Energizing Jazz, Energizing People,” at the Peco Energy Building, 23rd & Market Street. A panel discussion will be moderated by Jeff Duperon of WRTI with a special performance by the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble from Noon to 2 P.M. “Jazz In The Park” performances take place on 9/17 and 9/19. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz will host performances all day on Saturday 9/21 and Sunday, 9/22 with appearances by the Sun Ra Arkestra, Elliott Levin, Julian Pressley, the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble, the Odean Pope Trio, a tribute to John Coltrane and other showcases. There will also be workshops including “The Art of Rhythm,” and “Understanding Jazz,” on the final weekend. Go here for the complete schedule of shows and activities.