October 26, 2020. It’s been over 20 years since the release of the Sun Ra Arkestra’s last studio album, 1999’s Song for the Sun. But their new album, Swirling, confirms that space is, indeed, still the place.
In earthly terms, Morton Street in Philadelphia’s Germantown section is still the place, the place where the Arkestra’s 96-year-old alto saxophonist and music director for the past 23 years, Marshall Allen, still lives, as he has since the early ’70s, with several of the Arkestra’s members. That in itself is a story so unique in the age of the single-family home that it deserves much more robust journalistic treatment than this modest space can provide.
In the present context, the Arkestra’s terrestrial carbon footprint should be of relatively little concern, given that their minds, hearts, souls and, most especially, their music are, as they’ve been for nearly 70 years, still communing with the cosmos and ironing out the final details of mankind’s astral homecoming, where founder Sun Ra, an avowed citizen of Saturn (it was on his passport), will undoubtedly be waiting by the piano, resplendent in pharaonic regalia.
The good news is that with the release of Swirling, there’s even more to listen to while we’re waiting for the arrival of a Sun Ra-style rapture. Ra himself composed over 1,000 original tunes, and that’s to say nothing of the various alternate arrangements that, even if recorded, would have to fight with