Space is the place and other concert reviews

‘If you find earth boring, just the same old same thing. Come on sign up with outer space ways incorporated‘-Le Sony’r Ra

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center's summer festival

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center’s summer festival

It’s hard to imagine the year is already in the back stretch. There have been quite a few good concerts in the bay area this year, including the Sun Ra Arkestra on August 6th at the SF Jazz center. The concert we caught was the final night of a 4 night stretch which boasted different compositions each night. Led by longtime alum and maestro, Marshall Allen the Arkestra once again made good on their word to take every member of the audience to outer space.



Maestro Allen has transcended above any doubts fans might have had of whether he and the Arkestra would be able to adapt to a world without Sun Ra himself still in it. In fact, Sun Ra‘s very presence seems to be now somehow channeled through Allen as their compositions continue to inspire and evoke communication and the culture from some distant planet. Throughout history, many musicians and cultures have longed for an extraplanetary connection only to seem destined to fall short of such communications. The Arkestra has quite a track record for such a connection, not unlike the Dogon tribe in Mali.




8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

Sun Ra was well known for his compositions and improvisations as well as his ability to draw the Arkestra‘s talented and devoted group members. It does appear that Maestro Allen also serves as an inspirational musician who plays alto saxophone, flute and EVI. The EVI is an electronic wind instrument which Allen uses in a way not dissimilar to the way Sun Ra utilized synthesizers to explore sounds that enter our auditory realm from outer space while the band rhythmically swings and bops and paints auditory landscapes. Joined by saxophone, bassoon and flutist Danny Ray Thompson, alto saxophonist and singer Knoel Scott the group performed a wonderful version of the Sun Ra classic ‘Dreams come true’.





Farid Baron, Tara Middleton, Marshall Allen,  James Stewart, Knoel Scott and Danny Ray Thompson

Baron, Middleton, Allen,Stewart,Scott and Thompson

Michael Ray is also a longtime trumpet player and member of the Arkestra is also know for his work in Kool and the Gang, his own group Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe and other groups as well. The band also included singer Tara Middleton, percussionist ElSon Nacimento, Cellist Kash Killion and guitarist DM Hotep. Pianist Farid Abdul-Bari Barron plays in a wonderful barrel house style that fits in so well with the Arkestra and he is a wonderful spirit to have in the group.







For another take on the Arkestra and on Sun Ra, please have a look at my first vlog here.


Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

On Tuesday, July 25th L.A. based guitarist songwriter Vanessa Silberman brought her tour to the Blue Lagoon in downtown Santa Cruz. Her band included Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity, Reed Mullin Music) on drums and Mikel Ross (Dreamstar Productions, Lucky Recording, Inc.) on bass. Playing a short but blistering set the trio played loud and fast, supporting her 2016 self titled EP. The edgy rock written by Berkeley born Silberman likens back to post punk era 90s such as Scrawl and Nirvana. Those folks put on an amazing set and brought along Boston singer songwriter Carissa Johnson as an opener.







On Monday June 19th the one and only Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry performed at the Catalyst atrium in Santa Cruz with NST & the Soul Sauce from South Korea. It was one of two bay area shows, performing at the Mezzanine in SF and at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Performing alongside the dub pioneer was Subatomic Sound System, a Brooklyn based band who toured exclusively with Mr. Perry around the US performing the classic Upsetters record Super Ape, from 1976.

Lee 'Scratch" Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee ‘Scratch” Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz



This year’s incarnation with Noah Tha Riddum Doktor and Subatomic performed the single they cut with Scratch entitled ‘Black Ark Vampires‘ as well as well know including ‘Zion’s Blood‘ and ‘I am a madman‘. Perry tours extensively and the 81 year old singer, producer and inventor of Dub music has a storied career with his years at Studio One, the Black Ark, with producer/engineers Adrian Sherwood, the Mad Professor and others.





Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

Originally born in Kendal, Jamaica, Perry‘s mother was of Nigerian ancestry. He now lives in Switzerland and tours Europe extensively performing with Sherwood and Mad Professor in England, Pura Vida from Belgium, and has a new release with Cookie the Herbalist  from Switzerland entitled Ease! The master of dub proves that he is still a force to be reckoned with his quirky style and energetic shows. Wonderful sets from Perry and NST & the Soul Sauce.










A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

On Sunday, April 30th, Adam Carter AKA A-Plus from Souls of Mischiefand Hieroglyphics brought his Spring Cleaning tour from Oakland to the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz. With a set that included Hiero classics such ‘You never knew‘ as well as the Souls of Mischief hit ‘93 til Infinity‘, and music from his solo career including Patna Please.

Joined by Producer Jerome Foster AKA Knobody,  A-Plus performed with DJ Nocturnal and refers to this group as Grow Theory. Their anxiously awaited record is in the works and will be yet another group coming from the Hiero Emporium record label from the sunny side of the bay. Nothing but fun times every time I make it out to see any Hiero member and certainly they make the bay an exciting mecca for fans of old school hip hop.


The night prior to that stellar night of Hip Hop was Saturday, April 29th and we had a wonderful opportunity to see Oakland saxophone legend David Murray performing with Chicago native  and AACM member Kahil El’Zabar at Don Quixote’s International Music Hall in Felton, Ca.

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar Duo

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray Duo

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar at Don Quixote's International Dancehall in Felton, Ca.

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray at Don Quixote’s International Dancehall in Felton, Ca.



In addition to being a band leader and session artist Murray is well known for being a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet. He has received many awards including the Village Voice magazine’s ‘Musician of the Decade’ in 1980 as well as winning a Grammy in 1989 for his band’s recording ‘Blues for Coltrane‘.






David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!

David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!



Kahil El’Zabar performed with many legendary musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderly, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder. El’Zabar is known for his bands including the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Ritual Trio, TriFactor, JUBA Collective as well as being the recipient of the 2012 International Ambassador’s award in the Arts from former President Barack Obama.

Soulful and rhythmic with infusions of dance, spoken word are some of the memories this wonderful concert left on me. The Duo has three recording out together and they played efforts ‘We Is‘ and a number of other repertoire songs that captivated fans and audience members.



Morning song


David Murray-Morning Song-Black Saint records 1984 (cover photo ‘Poem for Catherine’ by Ming Smith, 1979)

I’m feeling somewhat nostalgic this moring. In the early 90’s I was introduced to the music of David Murray by my manager at The Record Exchange on Avent Ferry Rd in Raleigh, North Carolina. At that time Mr. Murray seemed to represent a convergence of the jazz components I held and continue to hold an affinity towards.  These include improvisation, traditionalism, harmony, post bop modernism, and in a broader sense the nature that sound must be projected acoustically by masters bold enough to voice their art from small ensembles all the way to large orchestras. In a sense these were the markings of the jazz purist methodology that branched into what I began to refer to as ‘musique actuelle’.

My appetite for this type of music was quite insatiable and I saw Mr. Murray perform several times. There was the concert at the Artscenter in Carborro (there could’ve been a few others), then there was the concert in Charlottesville, Virginia where David Murray and Archie Shepp performed the Coltrane and Dolphy record ‘Live at the Village Vanguard’. Then, perhaps equally as memorable was the 4th of July Concert in Washington D.C. on the National Mall. I also saw Mr. Murray perform a few times with the World Saxophone Quartet and to witness a concert by them is second to none.

An eager collector, I treasured finding the recordings by a variety of artists on the Black Saint and it’s sister Soul Note record labels. Particularly the classic titles such as Morning song.


BSR0075 Milano, Italy (back cover painting by Oolong Smith)

At that time I would often search for records like this one at all of the local used record stores and found quite a few of them by Mr. Murray and his contemporaries. When I was lucky enough to run across one, they were never more than $4.99 in the used bins. I would research the artists and learn which titles were the most recommended and sought after.

This title somehow eluded me, that is until now. I’ll admit even though I occasionally look for things online I rarely buy old records like this online. This is for a variety of reasons including the difficulty to verify condition, shipping costs and insurance. So when I found this title at Logos  last week in VG+ condition I just had to buy it. Over the years the prices have gone up a bit for an item such as this, but I was willing to pay $15 to hear what had been missing from my collection.

The lineup is top notch, including Ornette Coleman alum Ed Blackwell on drums, John Hicks on piano, and legendary bassist Reggie Workman who worked with Art Blakey and John Coltrane in their prime.

This album is simply amazing with some insightful versions of Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’ and a version of ‘Light Blue Frolic’ by the late coronetist and founder of Conduction Lawrence “Butch” Morris. Murray and Morris were collaborators in some fashion until his untimely death nearly one year ago. Mr. Morris conducted David Murray’s Big Band on the DIW label.

Mr. Murray is a bay area native who was born in Oakland, Ca. He continues to perform with a number of groups and although his tours are perhaps less extensive than they once were, his compostions such as Morning Song represent a powerful component of the jazz archive.