Event Archives

Sun Ra Arkestra + Mingus Big Band

Sun Ra was born in a segregated Birmingham but told the world he came from Saturn. The jazz visionary and prognosticator of future times turned the mixed-up lore of space and the Bible into a liberated sound the world had never seen: a universe of cow bells, Chinese gongs, burning sax figures, and the piano lines he’d learned in church. Led by Marshall Allen, Ra’s massive, always-evolving Arkestra –that’s ark, not orchestra— turns the master’s charts into a carnival of otherworldly art: 15 tone scientists in robes, driving home a swing born in the cosmos.

They split this massive double bill with the Mingus Big Band, a 14 piece juggernaut Time Out NY calls “the hippest big band in the universe — robust, earthy, sanctified.” Mingus was a bass natural and avant garde experimenter who thought of his work as the blues. His swinging, raw compositions touch up to the sacred edge of modern art. They’re resurrected by the Mingus Big Band, who intensify, with unpredictable force, everything that makes their namesake’s music great — “the muscle, the affection for history, the guts and soulfulness” (NY Times).

This once-in-a-lifetime double bill has epic sweep: a full set from the Mingus Big Band starts at 7 pm, followed by a break with beer and wine available. After that, the Arkestra plays a full set. And after that, you will have seen the strange and spinning energies at the core of jazz.


In the half-between world,
Dwell they: The Tone Scientists
In notes and tone
They speak of many things…
The tone scientists:
Architects of planes of discipline
Mathematically precise are they:
The tone-scientists
–Sun Ra

“The Mingus Big Band has revived Charles Mingus’s repertory and the brawling, muscular, hard-swinging, bluesy way he wanted it played.”
–Jon Pareles, New York Times


Additional Events:
Coversation featuring Marshall Allen and Art Jenkins of the Sun Ra Arkestra
with Fred Moten, Duke University’s Deptartment of English
Friday, September 25, 2 pm
John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, Room 240

This fall, the Durham Art Guild partners with Duke’s John Hope Franklin Center to present Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn, and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground 1954-68. This exhibit runs from August 21 through October 18 at 120 Morris Street, Durham. Public opening event Friday, August 21, 5 – 7 pm.  www.durhamartguild.org


Sun Ra Arkestra:
Musical Director

• Marshall Allen, alto saxophone / flute / EVI

• Michael Ray, trumpet / vocals
• Fred Adams, trumpet
• Cecil Brooks, trumpet

• Knoel Scott, alto saxophone
• Danny Thompson, alto saxophone / baritone saxophone / flute / bassoon
• Yah Ya Abdul-Majid, tenor saxophone
• Charles Davis, baritone saxophone
• Rey Scott,  baritone saxophone

• Dave Davies, trombone
• Brent Thompson, trombone

• Art Jenkins, vocals / percussion
• Elson Dos Santos Nascimento, percussion
• Rashad, percussion
• Wayne Anthony Smith Jr., drums
• Juini Booth, bass
• Farrid Abdul-Bari Barron, piano
• Dave Hotep, guitar


Mingus Big Band:
• Alex Sipiagin
• Kenny Rampton
• Avishai Cohen

• Craig Handy
• Seamus Blake
• Jaleel Shaw
• Vincent Herring
• Lauren Sevian

• Frank Lacy
• Conrad Herwig
• Dave Taylor

Rhythm Section
• Gene Jackson, drums
• Boris Kozlov, bass
• David Kikoski, piano


Sun Ra Arkestra story in Duke’s Chronicle

  • Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 7:00pm
Page Auditorium