Marshall Allen - director, as, fl
Honoring the 95th Birthday of Marshall Allen and the 105th anniversary of Sun Ra’s arrival on Planet Earth. 200 Years Space Jubilee!
Sun Ra left this planet in 1993. Since 1995, the group has performed under the direction of alto saxophonist Marshall Allen. Marshall Allen, as Musical Director of the Arkestra, is now in his 60th year of continuous activity within the Arkestra. Marshall has been in the Sun Ra Arkestra 23 years longer than Sun Ra himself. In Spring 2019 Marshall Allen will turn 95 years young, an incredible achievement which we are going to celebrate the whole year through with an unforgettable European tour.
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 Jackson, 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 a 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.
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.
It’s difficult to really put into perspective the sheer scope and weight of influence that Sun Ra and his Arkestra had not only on the music world, but also the landscapes of religion, philosophy, race and theology. A key figure in the afrofuturism movement, such was Sun Ra’s mythical presence, it often felt like he transcended humanity with his approach to songwriting. The torch is still carried by bandleader Marshall Allen, and the Arkestra’s music is more relevant than ever today, with forgotten works from Sun Ra’s revolutionary and expansive body of work, rediscovered and released onto wax for avid vinyl collectors.