The man himself may no longer be part of this world, but Sun Ra was never much about this world, anyway. Space has always been the place, and his jazz band continues on, now led by Marshall Allen, 92 and packing more vitality than me, packing more vitality than you. That’s the power of planetary jazz waves.
The show took place at the Manchester Band in the Wall venue, a cosy stage room which often holds the best in contemporary jazz. It was the night before Record Store Day, but rather then queuing up outside some record store for some special edition Sun Ra records, we were there watching the ten piece group deliver Sun Ra’s classics, dressed in wonderfully garish attire, marching around the sound of the sun, and allowing us all to witness what felt like a ritual to the universes far and wide.
Musically Sun Ra is a jazz band which is part of the avant garde side of the genre. The music is packed full of experimentation, moogs, and noise fuelled interludes, but there is always a sense of rhythm, usually a sense of rhythm, or they at least return to that sense of rhythm once the chaos subdues. These moments can be fairly challenging on record, but live the crowd simply gets caught up in it all. This isn’t cafe jazz, it was the future in the past, and it still sounds like the future now.
It’s safe to say that Sun Ra is still a musical force to be reckoned with under Marshall Allen’s leadership, and whilst it acts as a replay of the classics, they play those classics so damn well. Hopefully the words and sounds of Sun Ra can carry on from generations to come.
The way Sun Ra portrayed himself was as if to spread a message rather than to simply play jazz tunes, yet it was done without a feeling of intense egotism. Seeing the current line up live, the message seems to be simply one of intense joy, universal celebration. Sometimes we get bogged down too much in all the shit life attempts to drown us with. The visual and musical components which make up Sun Ra seem to be the antidote to all this.
Take it along with your vitamin C.