Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Birthday: Sun Ra & Marshall Allen

SUN RA (May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993), pioneering in being the first to extensively use synthesizers and electronic keyboards in Jazz music and any genre, also pioneering in the genres of electronic and cosmic music, as well as the father of "afrofuturism" by way of his cosmic philosophies of awareness and peace. His compositions touched on the entire history of Jazz, from ragtime to swing music, from bebop to free jazz.

Sun Ra's piano technique touched on many styles: his youthful fascination with boogie woogie, stride piano and blues, a sometimes refined touch reminiscent of Count Basie or Ahmad Jamal, and angular phrases in the style of Thelonious Monk or brutal, percussive attacks like Cecil Taylor. Often overlooked is the range of influences from classical music—Sun Ra cited Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Schoenberg and Shostakovich as his favorite composers for the piano. As a synthesizer and electric keyboard player, Sun Ra ranks among one of the earliest and most radical pioneers. By the mid-1950s, he used a variety of electric keyboards, and almost immediately, he exploited their potential perhaps more than anyone, sometimes modifying them himself to produce sounds rarely if ever heard before.

MARSHALL ALLEN (born May 25, 1924) is an American free jazz and avant-garde jazz alto saxophone player. He also performs on flute, oboe, piccolo, and EVI (an electronic valve instrument made by the Akai company). Allen is best known for his work with eccentric keyboardist/bandleader Sun Ra, having recorded and performed mostly in this context since the late 1950s, and having led Sun Ra's Arkestra since 1993. Critic Jason Ankeny describes Marshall as "one of the most distinctive and original saxophonists of the postwar era."

Allen is best known for his mastery of pyrotechnic effects on the alto - he has said that he "wanted to play on a broader sound basis rather than on chords" (1971 interview with Tam Fiofori). The opportunity came through his long association with Sun Ra, with whom he performed almost exclusively from 1958 to Ra's death in 1993, although he did record outside the Arkestra, notably with Paul Bley's group in 1964 and with Olatunji's group during the mid-1960s. Critic Scott Yanow has described Allen's playing as "Johnny Hodges from another dimension".

No comments:

Post a Comment