Ars Nova Workshop presents a very special performance of the Sun Ra Arkestra in celebration of the 86th birthday of Marshall Allen and the 96th anniversary of Sun Ra’s arrival on Earth. The Arkestra, under the direction of Allen, will perform two sets; DJ hi-res will spinning classic jazz, breaks and more; archival films will be projected behind the stage; and we’ll be giving away complimentary Moon Pies to the first 100 through the
door. You won’t want to miss this!
RELATED: One of the most colorful characters in the history of jazz, Sun Ra couched his compositions in arcane spiritual beliefs that combined Egyptology, numerology, Afrocentric myth, the Book of Revelations and interstellar travel to create a personal religion. Arkestra members were not just musicians; they were disciples committed to a monastic regimen of musical and philosophical study. After Ra left Earth, saxophonist John Gilmore took over leadership of the Arkestra, and when he died in 1995, the baton was passed to Allen. A noted alto saxophonist, Allen joined the Arkestra in 1958 after returning from studying at the National Conservatory in Paris. In typical Sun Ra fashion, Allen’s audition was less than conventional. “[Ra] had me come down to the practice room every day for three days and all he did was talk, talk, talk,” says Allen. “He talked about outer space and going to the moon and Egypt and the Bible. It was like going to school. And then he finally tells me to come around to practice; I was in the band. I never even played my horn.” In 1968 Sun Ra brought the Arkestra to Philadelphia after residencies in New York and Chicago. “To save the planet, I had to go to the worst spot on Earth,” he once told an interviewer, “and that was Philadelphia, which was death’s headquarters.” MORE