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Sun Ra Arkestra directed by Marshall Allen: Living Sky


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Sun Ra Arkestra directed by Marshall Allen: Living Sky
In 2022, Sun Ra has been gone nearly thirty years, but thanks to maestro Marshall Allen his Arkestra has survived. Allen had been a member of Sun Ra's band since the late 1950s and it has been under Allen's leadership since 1995. Fans that have enjoyed the Arkestra in concert certainly hoped for the band to record and it wasn't until the splendid Swirling (Strut) was released in 2020 that wish was fulfilled. The Marshall Allen-led the Arkestra's second offering, Living Sky, is an even more remarkable recording. Commissioned by executive producer Ahmet Ulug, the 19-piece Arkestra is captured in gorgeous sound in this studio recording.

The music includes two Sun Ra compositions, three by Allen, the standard "Wish Upon A Star," and Frédéric Chopin's "Prelude in A Major," which opens the disc. The last two were compositions the Arkestra explored live under Sun Ra's direction. "Chopin" floats in as a muted theme with Allen applying his shamanistic alto squeal and squawk over the gliding french horn of Vincent Chancey and a strings backing. The spell is not broken with the cover of Ra's "Somebody Else's Idea." Gone are the luscious vocals of June Tyson, but even wordless, the connoisseur can imagine the lyrics in their head: "Somebody else's idea of somebody else's world/Is not my idea of things as they are/Somebody else's idea of things to come/Need not be the only way/To vision the future."

Allen switches to his kora for "Day of the Living Sky" accompanied by Tara Middleton's flute and plenty of hand drumming. Then there's the big band swing of "Marshall's Groove" and a royal procession is rolled out for Ra's hypnotic "Night of the Living Sky" adorned with baritone saxophone and plenty of percussion.

The recording concludes with Allen's ballad "Firefly" and an Arkestra favorite, "(When You) Wish Upon A Star." The latter piece is delivered with anything but nostalgia, Allen's alto preferring an ugly beauty here, as he ever vigilantly guards the avant-garde.

Track Listing

Chopin; Somebody Else’s Idea; Day of the Living Sky; Marshall’s Groove; Night of the Living Sky; Firefly; Wish Upon a Star.


Sun Ra Arkestra
band / ensemble / orchestra
Marshall Allen
saxophone, alto
Knoel Scott
saxophone, alto
Nasir Dickerson
saxophone, tenor
Chris Hemingway
saxophone, alto
Michael Ray
Cecil Brooks
Vincent Chancey
french horn
Dave Hotep
Ron Mcbee
Jorge Silva
Elison Nascimento
Gwen Laster
Additional Instrumentation

Marshall Allen: alto saxophone, kora, EVI; Knoel Scott: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Tara Middleton: violin, flute.

Album information

Title: Living Sky | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Omni Sound

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