Fridays Live: Sun Ra Arkestra
Fridays Live • SFJAZZ At Home

Sun Ra Arkestra

An Adventure into Outer Space

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Sun Ra Arkestra

This week on Fridays Live, SFJAZZ presents a cosmic jazz orchestra and a cultural phenomenon, the Sun Ra Arkestra. They continue the legacy of its visionary founder Sun Ra, who blended music, philosophy, mythology and science fiction in his quest for intergalactic harmony, for this exclusive broadcast, where the Arkestra will focus on the more experimental exploratory music from Sun Ra’s songbook.

Watching Sun Ra Arkestra is akin to seeing a group of people have a religious experience, with each individual pouring their soul into their music.

The enduring legacy of jazz visionary and legendary eccentric Sun Ra is celebrated by this ensemble made up of Arkestra veterans and a younger generation of exploratory musicians led by alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, who has been a fixture of Sun Ra’s bands since 1958. For the first two nights of their week, the band focuses on the more experimental exploratory music from Sun Ra’s songbook.

Born Herman Blount, the enigmatic composer and keyboardist known as Sun Ra created an entire universe of expression through his pioneering Afro-futurist concepts in music and philosophy. He integrated Ellington-influenced big band swing with free jazz, the blues, electronics, and African musical traditions while establishing a singular visual style that combined futuristic concepts with ancient Egyptian iconography. One of the most prolific recording artists of all time, he released over a hundred full-length albums and innumerable singles during his career. His Arkestra appeared on Saturday Night Live, and was named Best Big Band in DownBeat’s Critics Poll five times.

Since his death in 1993, the Arkestra has continued to record and perform, first by the late tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, and under the direction of Allen for the last dozen years. Sun Ra claimed to have come from the planet Saturn to bring peace to Earth. His Arkestra continues this mission, needed now more than ever.

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