Photo by Larson Sutton

Last night, Marshall Allen, maestro and saxophonist of Sun Ra Arkestra, received a Proclamation from the Mayor of Pawtucket, R.I. in recognition of the legendary musician’s upcoming 99th birthday. Just prior to the Arkestra’s appearance in Pawtucket at The Met, the city’s mayor, Donald Grebien, and Rhode Island State Senator Joshua Miller welcomed Allen onstage to present him with the honor. 

The proclamation, in part, read: “WHEREAS, your devotion to the music- joining the Arkestra in 1955 and leadership of the Arkestra since 1995 is unprecedented…on your 99th birthday Rhode Islanders and music lovers everywhere commend you for your service…”

Following a standing ovation from the packed house, Allen, also a veteran of World War II, proceeded to perform with and conduct the 18-piece ensemble through a nearly-two-hour set of elegant avant-garde jazz, opening with “Astro Black,” including such Ra classics as “Rocket Number Nine Take Off For The Planet Venus,” and “Angels and Demons At Play.”  As well, the band’s extended intro to a rendition of Fletcher Henderson’s “Hocus Pocus” featuring an impromptu wink to “Happy Birthday,” during which the Met audience serenaded Allen, who officially turns 99 on May 25.

The Met concert kicked off a summer of tour dates throughout North America and Europe for Sun Ra Arkestra, highlighted with a September stop at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. 

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