Wednesday, August 9, 2017

space is the place--marvin x notes on sun ra arkestra at sf jazz center, aug 3-6,2017

The Sun Ra Arkestra is the highest expression of Black Classical Music known as jazz. From August 3 thru 6, 2017, the Sun Ra Arkestra performed at the San Francisco Jazz Center. Minus the Black Arts Movement mysic, philosopher, poet, arranger, producer, piano and synthesizer master Sun Ra, the Arkestra was conducted by Marshall Allen, the 93 year old alto sax player.  Under Maestro Marshall Allen, the Arkestra sounded smoother than when Master Sun Ra was present. The transitions were tighter, the costumes more glamorous and elaborate than maybe Sun Ra was able to afford or even cared about.  Of course we missed the presence of Sun Ra, although we heard a recording of his voice speaking to us from his land of Infinity. The Arkestra is a most beautiful expression of eternity. For sure, the Sun Ra sound shall be around forever.

My association with Sun Ra and his Myth-Science Arkestra began in Harlem, 1968, at the formation of the Black Arts Movement, of which we were co-founders, along with Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Last Poets, Barbara Ann Teer, Ed Bullins, Mae Jackson, Haki Madhubuti,
Woody King, et al. I performed my poetry with the Arkestra in Harlem and Philadelphia. Sun Ra perfected the Black Arts Movement concept of Ritual Theatre, i.e., the notion derived from aboriginal communal art that connects the socalled audience with the performers by destroying that fourth wall allowing the performers and people to become one. Indeed, the performance transforms into a church or spiritual experience. This ritual theatre was attempted at the New Lafayette Theatre under director Robert Macbeth, at the National Black Theatre of Barbara Ann Teer and by myself at our Black Arts West Theatre, 1966, Black Educational Theatre,  and Recovery Theatre, 1996. At my theatre, people did indeed get the holy ghost and faint. At the production of my docudrama, One Day in the Life, a woman cried like she was at her mama's funeral. When Sun Ra and his Arkestra performed at my Black Educational Theatre, a member of the "audience" danced so hard her wig fell off!

Today, Sun Ra is called The Father of Afro-futurism, Octavia Butler, the Mother. In 2015, we participated in the Sun Ra Conference at the University of Chicago and we were overjoyed to be on the panel with young hip hop scholars discussing Sun Ra and his philosophy.

At the San Francisco Jazz Center, we were happy to be in the presence of the few surviving members of the Arkestra, e.g., Marshall Allen, Danny Thompson, Noel and Wisteria, the dancer from San Francisco. Yes, Space is the Place!

We hope you enjoy the beautiful photographs of Adam Turner, photographer and design editor of the Movement Newspaper.
--Marvin X, Black Arts Movement

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