Sun Ra Arkestra/Marshall Allen: Babylon Live Review – Otherwordly Space-jazz

Sun Ra Arkestra/Marshall Allen: Babylon Live CD Sun Ra Arkestra/Marshall Allen: Babylon Live CD

Celebrating the centenary of inimitable African American composer/keyboardist Sun Ra’s birth last year, and the memory of pioneering Turkish jazz promoter Mehmet Ulu?, In + Out Records caught this gig at Istanbul’s Babylon Club. The mix of 1930s swing and furious free-blowing is as powerful as ever and the singing as approximate, the otherworldly references teeter between amiable hokum and profound criticism of humanity’s foibles. Solemn mystical/political intonations give way to drum eruptions (there are three percussionists), punchy riffs, traffic-jam honkings and free-sax squeals that boil and bubble. The straight-boppish piano intro to Saturn (from the excellent Farid Barron), becomes a swaggering swinger, Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust is a pretty straight vocal from Tara Middleton that becomes a slow-drag band melody and an almost-capsized finale, Dancing Shadows is fast and cacophonic with a spacey free section in the middle and impassioned alto/tenor sax exchanges at the close. It’s an engagingly faithful representation of Arkestra’s live shows under veteran saxophonist Marshall Allen’s current direction.

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