Marshall Allen / director, alto sax, flute
Tara Middleton / vocal
Vincent Chancey / flugelhorn
Cecil Brooks / trumpet
Knoel Scott / vocal, saxes, dance
Charles Davis / tenor sax
Danny Ray Thompson / baritone sax
Dave Davis / trombone
Farid Barron / piano
Dave Hotep / electr. guitar
Stanley Morgan / congas, perc
Elson Nascimento / perc, surdo
Tyler Mitchell / bass
Wayne Anthony Smith Jr. / drums
Sun Ra was one of the greatest and least known jazz artists of the last four decades, whose influence on diverse musicians is little known to the general public. A pianist and band leader, his style ranged from retro swing to avant free, and often in the same piece. His band could play a swinging Gershwin tune and almost imperceptibly soar into their free cosmic equational tones as if they possessed a single mind.
Ra was a keyboard improviser of great originality, but his foremost talent was for inspiring and teaching creative musicians to improvise freely but together. This tension between freedom and coherence was something he explored with abundant energy and skill.
Sun Ra died in 1993. The Arkestra performs today, under the direction of alto saxophonist Marshall Allen.
Photo above by Fabio Lugaro
As a young musician, Marshall Belford Allen (b. May 25, 1924) performed with pianist Art Simmons, Don Byas and James Moody before enrolling in the Paris Conservatory of Music. After relocating to Chicago, Allen became a pupil of Sun Ra, subsequently joining the Arkestra in 1958 and leading Sun Ra's formidable reed section for the next 40 years. Marshall, along with John Gilmore, June Tyson and James Jacson, lived, rehearsed, toured and recorded with Sun Ra almost exclusively for much of Sun Ra's musical career. As a member of the Arkestra, Allen pioneered the Free Jazz movement of the early sixties, having remarkable influence on the leading voices in the avant-garde. He is featured on over 200 Sun Ra recordings in addition to collaborations with Phish, Sonic Youth, Digable Planets and Medeski, Martin & Wood.
Allen assumed the position of Arkestra Musical Director in 1995, following the ascension of Sun Ra in 1993 and John Gilmore in 1995. Marshall continues to be committed to the study, research, and development of Sun Ra's musical precepts and has launched the Sun Ra Arkestra into a dimension beyond that of mere "ghost" band by writing fresh arrangements of Sun Ra's music, as well as composing new music and arrangement for the Arkestra. He works unceasingly to keep the big-band tradition alive.