The Sun Ra Arkestra at Cafe Oto, London
Undoubted highlight of the second set was an amazing driving "Angels And Demons At Play." First appearing on the eponymous album in 1965, it is one of the few Arkestra originals not written by Sun Ra, credited to Allen and bassist Ronnie Boykins. It began as a seemingly impromptu guitar and percussion riff, soon layered with contrastingly slow reed and flute lines, combining to hypnotic effect in an excellent extended groove. Fred Adams fragmented trumpet duet with Allen's flute was particularly noteworthy. Fletcher Henderson's "Big John Special" received a very tight reading, with syncopated trumpets and trombone in a lovely arrangement. A concluding medley, bizarrely starting with "Forest of No Return" from the 1961 Disney film "Babes In Toyworld," but more expectedly traversing "Space Is The Place" and "We Travel The Spaceways," saw everyone gradually space hop off the stage to ecstatic applause. Nonetheless only a reduced size contingent could be enticed back for a brief "Hit That Jive Jack," and then they were gone.
Well not quite. Due to the volcanic ash cloud, the Arkestra were stranded at Heathrow so Cafe Oto scheduled a supplementary benefit appearance five days later to cover the not inconsiderable costs of keeping the musicians going while waiting to get home. For those who missed the performances the recent Live At The Paradox (In And Out, 2009) gives an accurate indication of what to expect these days, but there is even better news: the Arkestra returns to Cafe Oto for a further two day residency in early July 2010.