10

Celebrating Sun Ra at the Painted Bride Art Center

Victor L. Schermer By

Sign in to view read count
Without exception, the Warrior musicians showed the highest level of competence both in ensemble work and solo improvising. Every one of them took marvelous solos. Elliot Levin, a reed player with a highly disciplined straight-ahead approach, rendered flute solos with remarkable technical facility and rich imagination. Trumpeters Stan Slotter and Josh Lawrence improvised with respective straight-ahead and gritty styles that provided a nice contrast to one another. Steve Swell, one of the most resilient trombonists of any generation, did superb solo work, especially in "Spirits Break," while John Swana's valve trombone renditions had the precision and brilliance of conception that characterized his trend-setting trumpet playing as a Criss-Cross artist. (Swana had developed embouchure problems on trumpet, and switched for several years to EWI: electronic wind instrument. Recently taking up valve trombone, he has swiftly moved to the front line of that instrument.) Bassist Lee Smith was given ample room for an astonishingly virtuosic solo. Pianist Tom Lawton attained a fusion of hard bop and contemporary maneuvers that enriched the musical lexicon of the band. Diane Monroe's electric violin added a special sonority. Mark Allen plunged with agility to the deeper registers of the baritone saxophone, while Julian Pressley and Bobby Zankel sang with controlled ecstasy up to the high end of their alto saxophones. Craig McIver and Francois Zayas waited until late in the set to emerge with powerful rhythmic intensity. It is impossible to praise these musicians too much. They represent the highest level of capability that jazz has to offer. The overall effect was electric from start to finish.

The Warriors are a hard act to follow, but the Sun Ra Centennial Arkestra succeeded by offering a combination of art, entertainment, and sheer acrobatics that was as close to the Cirque de Soleil as its possible to get without flying through the air. What they offered for this reviewer was temporary release from the entrapments of bureaucratic existence. From the standpoint of jazz as such, the Arkestra manifests the African tribal rituals and masks in which the music is rooted, as well as the journey to other worlds inherent in Brazilian carnivale and the trance-like states of Carribean healing rites, all transformed into "Interplanetary Music" in which "Space is the Place," as the opening and encore numbers were entitled. One of the creative features of avant-garde movement is the conjoining of music, art, dance, costume, poetry, and indeed whatever might be at hand, to create a total audio-visual emotional experience. The Arkestra perpetually has been one of the seminal manifestations of such integration of forms, all with a psychedelic sense of the fantastic becoming real. Without Sun Ra and the Arkestra, a lot of what has happened in modern jazz might never have occurred.

There were several notable solar flares generated by the Arkestra performers. Vocalist Tara Middleton achieved a unique blend of jazz and soul, especially in "Interplanetary Music." After her strong beginning, one wished she had continued on with full vocal numbers, but she seemed to take a back seat during the remainder of the set. However, when she did interject some singing into the subsequent pieces, she added a distinct flavor. Leader Marshall Allen took numerous solos throughout. His tenor saxophone exhumation of "Cocktails for Two" satirized the bourgeois pseudo-sophistication embodied in the lyrics. (He managed, through his use of rubato and glissando, to evoke the accentuations of a phony English accent.) Keyboardist Farid Barron stunningly resurrected boogie- woogie and stride piano and got the rest of the rhythm section going along with him in a masterful way. Charles Davis on tenor saxophone competently evoked Coleman Hawkins. As always, the Arkestra personnel showed exceptional musical ability, but the showmanship aspect of their work kept them from fully demonstrating their capabilities on their instruments. Guitarist Dave Hotep, however, managed to get in a couple of swinging solos.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017 Live Reviews Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Mike Zito at the Iridium Live Reviews Mike Zito at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall Live Reviews Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 20, 2017
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: June 18, 2017
Read Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater Live Reviews Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: June 17, 2017
Read ELBJAZZ 2017 Live Reviews ELBJAZZ 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "Adrian Belew Power Trio at Ardmore Music Hall" Live Reviews Adrian Belew Power Trio at Ardmore Music Hall
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 10, 2017
Read "Richie Buckley With The Scott Flanigan Trio @ The Sunflower, Belfast" Live Reviews Richie Buckley With The Scott Flanigan Trio @ The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Michele Hendricks at Sunset Jazz Club" Live Reviews Michele Hendricks at Sunset Jazz Club
by Patricia Myers
Published: August 9, 2016
Read "Houston Person at Kiawah Island, South Carolina" Live Reviews Houston Person at Kiawah Island, South Carolina
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "The Chris Robinson Brotherhood at The Rusty Nail" Live Reviews The Chris Robinson Brotherhood at The Rusty Nail
by Doug Collette
Published: August 13, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.