Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Sun Ra Arkestra Live at the Paradox
When I heard that the Sun Ra Arkestra was under the direction of his long-time altoist Marshall Allen I wasn't sure how that would work out on the ground. Not that Mr. Allen isn't a totally capable musician and leader in his own right. He is. Bands that continue on without their founder can flounder. They can thrive. One never knows.
The Arkestra under Allen was captured Live at the Paradox a while ago and that performance is the focus of a recent CD (In and Out 77098-2) that forms the subject of this review.
I'm happy to say that the Arkestra (based on this recording) is alive and well. It retains the elements that made the Sun Ra unit so unique and exciting: the collective improvisations, the quirky instrumentals, the free soloing, the creaky standards done with Ra panache, the retro big band charts lurchingly performed with Ra-ist zest, the space songs and chants. All that remains in the new reincarnation of the band. But it's not Ra by rote. There's a refreshed focus. They don't quite sound the same much of the time--but that isn't so bad. In fact it's good.
If you are looking for the original go back to those recordings. If you want the 2010 version of Ra largess this is a very good way to get it. There are some long-time members of the fold: of course Marshall, Davis, Thompson, but there are also new members. The mix of old and new comes out well in the sound of the band, some of the Ra standards, and a series of new pieces composed by Allen.
It all works and brings you the joyous outness that the band always managed to create. But it's no recreate-the-old-material and how can it be as good sort of thing. It's a new take on the band. So it's a new band. And it's good. And that's good.