Sun Ra Arkestra @ The Liquid Room

If this is what religion could be like, we should all convert right now

Article by Paul Mitchell | 15 Jun 2006
On reflection, dedicating one's entire life to the values and philosophies of one iconoclastic maverick seems like an odd thing to do, but since Christians have been at it for millennia, why not the Sun Ra Arkestra? The free-jazz pioneer himself may have travelled the spaceways back to his home planet years ago, but that hasn't stopped his disciples from continuing to preach his gospel with aplomb. Squeezing onto the Liquid Room stage for this, one of the coups of the Triptych Festival, in their dazzling 'Space' suits, the grandeur, mysticism, and blissful chaos of it all was a joy to behold.

Band leader, the Merlinesque octogenarian Marshall Allen, conducted proceedings with a magnificent sense of fun – showing off to splendid effect with his EVI (electronic valve instrument – surely the coolest musical instrument ever to grace the stage?) and directing his band members to disperse amongst the crowd, heightening the carnival atmosphere already generated by the music.

That music, for long periods, stayed within the more conventional boundaries of their notoriously experimental free-jazz, but reached its apogee when all band members united in discord, squealing 'stray' notes and outlandish riffs at each other in wondrous cacophony, even on the Disney classics! If this is what religion could be like, we should all convert right now. [Paul Mitchell]