Tag Archives: sun ra

Must-See Three: Jazz This Week In NYC

Marshall Allen & The New York City All-Stars Shift Friday, February 3

“Imagination is the magic carpet,” Marshall Allen told NPR a couple years ago. “It’ll take your soul to distant lands. And outer space.” The 98-year-old saxophonist, who joined Sun Ra’s Arkestra in 1958 and now leads the indefatigable outfit, is an anything-goes guy who likes to move things forward. Those pithy cri de coeurs he wails on the band’s version of “Firefly” from their Living Sky album are as heartfelt as they are disruptive. After decades of gigs with his mentor Ra, Allen knows that both angles can be in play simultaneously – their balance enriches the music’s emotional spectrum. For this rare non-Arkestra gig, a benefit for Arts For Art, Marshall is the maestro, leading a scad of intrepid improvisers. Vocalist Fay Victor, alto saxophonists Darius Jones and Aakash Mital, soprano player Sam Newsome, bassist Brandon Lopez, drummer Lesley Mok, and an array of others comprise the sizeable group. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. THE SUN RA ARKESTRA PLAYS AT THE WHITE EAGLE HALL IN JERSEY CITY ON SATURDAY.

Wendy Eisenberg / Ryan Sawyer / Lester St. Louis – Studies In Loyalty Roulette Friday, February 3

Kept my ears on Wendy Eisenberg the other night at John Zorn’s Derek Bailey fest because her musical decisions wouldn’t let me turn away. Whether it was some insightful raking she added to a string trio rounded out by Mary Halvorson and Bill Frisell, or a tender series of lyrical fillips she chose to deliver during another of the program’s insightfully curated subsets, the guitarist’s timing and choices continuously proved their value – birthing abstraction and then getting it to do her bidding is Eisenberg’s forte. And she does it with a smile on her face, as if her countenance was a billboard for the joy of creation. The unusual structures of her songs can momentarily perplex, but they’re built on idiosyncrasies whose playfulness is right up front. Genial oddities with pointedly poetic lyrics that long to have a pop impact regardless of their eccentricities – no wonder hints of Meat Puppets and minutemen waft by from time to time. She says this newish trio’s rapport is such that it feels like they’ve “been on the road for 20 years.” Spend time with her Bent Ring and Auto albums, and then imagine what a cellist and drummer can bring to the party. The trio will be “improvising around and beyond” her tunes.   (above image by Taylor Sesselman)

Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom Dizzy’s Club   Tuesday, January 31- February 1

Personnel shifts have only enhanced the vitality of the nimble drummer’s longstanding ensemble. Miller runs with the best jazz has to offer, and her previous choices for the group (Kirk Knuffke, Todd Sickafoose, Ben Goldberg, Jenny Scheinman) have delivered big-time through a handful of terrific albums (do be sure to stick your head into the wonderous Glitter Wolf). Because she’s as clever with her pen as she with her sticks, the leader always comes up with a book that employs crackling kinetics to broker catchy melodies that weave in and out of view while breaking bread with cagey improv passages. BTB’s latest iteration should be able to continue that tradition nicely. Joining longstanding pianist Myra Melford for this Dizzy’s hit is bassist Scott Colley and saxophonist Dayna Stephens. The former is expert at propulsion, always using a dash of vim to boost the music’s vigor; the latter is a tenor player whose command of the horn can be dizzying. Churchy exclamation, whispered asides – his range is wide and his truths are many. Miller’s multi-faceted approach to swing and off-hand ardor will surely keep them on their toes.

(image by Shervin Lainez)


Ben Wolfe Quartet Birdland Thursday, February 3-Sunday, 5

Peter Apfelbaum, Allan Mednard, Mike McGinnis Endless Life Brewing Saturday, February 4

Aaron Diehl Dizzy’s Club Thursday, February 2- 4

Mike McGinnis + 9 Road Trip Band Barbes Tuesday January 31

Kevin Sun Trio Lowlands Tuesday, January 31

Mat Maneri + Lucian Ban Bar Bayeux Wednesday, February 1

Stefon Harris + Blackout Smoke Thursday, February 2 – Sunday, February 5

John Cowherd’s Mercy Project Village Vanguard Tuesday January 31-5

Ethan Iverson Jazz Gallery Friday, February 3-4

Sun Ra Arkestra White Eagle Hall Saturday, February 4

Helio Alves The Django Friday, February 3

Andy Statman Barbes Wednesday, February 1

Mike McGinnis’ Experiments With Emotion and Sound iBeam Friday, February 3

The Marrow (Gordon Grdina, Mark Helias, Hank Roberts, Hamin Honari) Nublu 7 pm Sunday, February 5

Vijay Iyer Trio Miller Theater Saturday, February 4

Anthony Coleman Residency      Barbes   Saturday February 4,11,18,25  6 pm

Ken Peplowski Quartet Mezzrow Friday, February 3 – Saturday, February 4

Ingrid Laubrock, Fay Victor, Patricia Brennan, Michael Dessen, Joshua White, Mark Dresser, Gerald Cleaver Roulette Widening the Embrace: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert

George Garzone Trio Smalls Friday, February 3 – Saturday, 4

EJ Strickland Bar Bayeux Saturday, January 4

Eric Person + Houston Person St. Albans Church Jazz Vespers Series Saturday, February 4

Gentile/Nilsson/Hébert/Rainey iBeam Saturday, February 4

Max Johnson Trio Barbes Sunday, February 5

Lucian Ban’s Elevation LunÀtico Tuesday, February 7


Quite An Afternoon for the Birthday Boy

Hail Atlantis: Zoom, Zoom, Up In The Sky…

Lots of fun space vernacular floating around the launch of the shuttle this morning. Jason Crane, Jazz Session kingpin and good guy, started tweeting Ra references. Let’s keep it going. Here’s are a few records/songs to click you into the mindset of the man who once told me that he was “the head of all the arts in France, and the inventor of punk rock.” Yes, space is the place.

The Universe Sent Me 

“Prepare For the Journey To Other Worlds”

“Space Aura”

“Earth Primitive Earth”

“Friendly Galaxy” 

Fun Ra: Five Quick Quotes from the Birthday Boy

Almost forgot about Sunny’s birthday yesterday. Destination Out has dropped some nice rarities. Best head over there, and absorb ’em. I traveled with Mr. Blount in the late ’80s, swooping through the South and spending time in New England, too. Here are a few tidbits from our chats. You don’t have to pay those taxes on the wind, the planet is doomed anyway. 

“Many players have come through my band, and I don’t like to babysit. A few I’ve had to, though. They might be good, but they need to be refined – learn what not to play. There are a lot of voodoo rhythms out there, and some of them are deadly. Or if they go outside a club with a whiskey bottle in their hands, I have to watch that because that’s not good for a long life. If they can stand the fire, they can stay with me. But sometimes the fire falls, and when it does, it’s worse than Satan.”

“Most of the time the avant garde looks so serious. They don’t look like they’re really having fun. People don’t want to see that. I want people to laugh at the costumes we have one. Why do astronauts wear what they wear? Why do soldiers? Because it makes people notice them more. The musicians have a perfect right to join the crowd and say, “We’re going to wear this. This is how we feel.'”

“On tour I stay active in my room 24 hours a day, and I’ve got my DX7 by my bed most of the time. I’m still interested in different sound effects. I’ve got about 700 of them now. The way you play must fit the song, though. It’s like speaking in a foreign language; if you pick the wrong sound, most people won’t understand you.”

“The next thing I do will shake up the whole planet. When I get back to Philadelphia, I’m going to a lawyer and have him prepare eviction papers for everybody on this planet. I’ll take it to the White House and say, “If you can’t handle the anarchists and the terrorists and you aren’t capable of taking care of the property of the creator of the universe, then we’ll take over. The Earth belongs to someone, but that someone is not m-a-n. People might pray to the lord, but it’s the landlord who will evict them. He’s never spoken before, but now he’s saying ‘You haven’t paid no taxes on the wind and no taxes on the sun.’ The world is getting ready to change over.”

“Right now we’re rehearsing “S’Wonderful” – that’s a beautiful word. Or we might do “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” because that’s a nice sentiment. But we arrange these onto another palette. The melodies are going to be there, but the harmonies will be celestial, and the polyrhythms will be fantastic.”



If you find Earth boring, the same old same thing, sign up with Outer Spaceways.

It’s After the End of the World

Beyond The Purple Star Zone

Of Heavenly Things

Outer Nothingness

The Universe Sent Me

Celestial Realms


“A lot of black people don’t know they’re black.” Ra rattles on during a Berkeley lecture. 

Record Store Day: My 10 Most Memorable Buys

Spent my first allowance on 45s. Got a paper route to feed my album habit. Worked at a record store in high school and college. Ran a record store after graduation. Kept on grabbing up records. Bought one last week. I’m pro-digital, but something about this situation creates sadness. Last year these titles came to mind. This year? This year you should walk into a record store on Saturday and plop down some green. Here are ten purchases that remain vivid in my mind. What are yours?

1. Four By The Beach Boys (Capitol) – Hathaway’s Music (East Greenwich, RI)

“Little Honda” sounded great, but “Hushabye” sounded better. All hail Doc Pomus.

2. Moby Grape, “8:05/Mister Blues” (Columbia) – Main Music (East Greenwich RI)

In a marketing stunt, the label simultaneously released five singles from the classic and cursed San Francisco band. I bought only one. Why oh why did I not buy them all?

3. MC5, Kick Out The Jams (Elektra) – Warwick Shopper’s World (Warwick, RI)

Read about the insurrection aspects of their songs in Time or Newsweek. Purchased LP. Was amazed at the ass-kicking aspects of their songs in my bedroom. Wanted to be a revolutionary as well. Put my stereo speakers in my bedroom window, facing out. Blasted the “kick out the jams, motherfuckers” track at our neighbors.

4. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia) – K&M Records (Providence, RI)

Wasn’t going to buy it, but found a mispriced copy for 99 cents and couldn’t say no. Fell deep into country-rock hole from the first spin on. Playing “Blue Canadian Rockies” as I write this.

5. Thelonious Monk, Underground (Columbia) – Midland Records (Warwick, RI)

Didn’t know shit about jazz, but after a mentor spun the album for me, the giddy bounce of “Boo Boo’s Birthday” became irresistible. Was wooed by the cover art as well.

6. Nick Lowe, Bowi (Radar) – Rhymes Records  (Providence, RI)

You remember the story. David Bowie released the wonderful Low. Wiseacre Nick took it as a reference to his own bad self, sans the “e” at the end. He then followed it up with a reference to DB that erased the “e” from his own title as well. Four songs, one instrumental. Still love “Born A Woman.”

7. minutemen, what makes a man start fires (SST) – Looney Tunes (Westerly, RI)

Read a Village Voice piece about the Pedro upstarts and their pithy approach – I wanna say Tom Carson wrote it. Anyway the power of the essay got me out of my apartment and down the highway to pick up the album. Not their best, but one of my faves.

8. Chico Freeman, Morning Prayer (Why Not/Japan) – SoHo Music Gallery (New York)

Saved up a bunch of loot, maybe $120, and was off to NYC to buy jazz. Purchased a few Black Saint discs in one shop, and grabbed this baby in another. Two separate bags. Was thrilled with my new records. Got out of the cab at the apartment I was staying in, and left the (quite costly import) Freeman disc in the back seat. Wah!

9. Sun Ra, “I’m Gonna Unmask the Batman” (El Saturn) – In Your Ear (Providence, RI)

The El Saturn 45s are somewhat rare, and when this fell into my lap, I felt lucky.

10. Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs, “Sugar Shack” (Dot) – Shop-O-Mat (East Greenwich, RI)

The finest group to ever bust outta Raton, New Mexico. First vinyl I ever bought with my own money.

Ra To The Rescue: Sound Can Wash Clothes

He played this piece in a NOLA schoolyard 20 some years ago and the place went bullshit. Glad we got to travel with him on that Southern swing. Train stations and hotels are the way to learn about people, especially idiosyncratic people. I’m thinking that if he was here today, on his birthday, he’d dedicate “Face the Music” to the company known as British Petroleum. Yes?

Thinking of John and June today, too.

I, Jukebox

Sun Ra, Disco 3000

Sun Ra, When Angels Speak of Love

Sun Ra, A Fireside Chat With Lucifer

Sun Ra, Sunrise In Different Dimensions

Sun Ra + Walt Dickerson, Visions (thanks to Bret)