Boomkat Product Review:
The gorgeous first Sun Ra Arkestra album in 20 years is lead by Marshall Allen and solidifies their place among the most prized, and singular, jazz bands of this constellation.
‘Swirling’ by name and by nature, Sun Ra Arkestra’s glorious return sees them touch down from near perpetual tours orbiting the globe, sounding out cosmic and earthly concerns in a spirited continuation of Ra’s original directions, more than capably steered by 90 year old living legend Marshall Allen, who has manned the big band since Sonny Blount stepped off this mortal coil in 1993.
With a resurgent interest in new jazz music surrounding Chicago’s International Anthem label, and the likes of a rich London scene, Sun Ra Arkestra come to take their crown, wear it upside down, and show errrrrryone how to do it like they haven’t missed a beat, or at least all the wrong ones, for more than half a century. Long-standing members Danny Ray Thompson (RIP), Michael Ray, Vincent Chancey, Knoel Scott, Cecil Brooks, Atakatune (RIP), Elson Nascimento and Tyler Mitchell all appear beside Marshall on his Alto Sax and AVI, and come infused by new blood in the form of Tara Middleton’s powerful vocals, and the drum muscle of Wayne Anthony Smith, bolstering their Latinate rhythms where needed.
The wobbling cosmic synth noise and belting vocals of ‘Astro Black’ make a big highlight, and again it’s brilliant when the music drops out to leave stark power of their harmonised vocals in ‘Sea of Darkness / Darkness’, but if you’re after that unmistakable cosmic chaos, it’s there in the glorious clatter of ‘Infinity / I’ll Wait For You’, and right on the dissonant nose with the slinky swag of ‘Queer Notions’, while their spin on classic ‘Rocket No. 9’ will be destined for the ‘floor.