100th anniversary Sun Ra Festival

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#1 Wed, 2003-04-23 19:17
John Bunker
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100th anniversary Sun Ra Festival

Dear Margaret,

During the 100th anniversary year of the birth of Duke Ellington there was a series of Ellington concerts in Portland Maine (as there were of course all over the country). In Portland, the one concert I attended consisted of an assortment of groups playing EKE compositions. Some were quite professional, some not at all. The evening was delightful. The audience loved it.

I'm sure you're aware of the various Mostly Mozart concerts, festivals that come up here and there. They are also wonderful. Although I did not attend any of the bicenntennial Mozart celebrations (1956) I have heard some of the fantastic recordings of various musicians performing WAM's compositions made that year. I am also a big Mozart fan.

One of my favorite recordings of Sun Ra's music was not recorded by Sonny himself or any of his band members. It is the performance of Planet Earth by an elementary school band from the Wave Length Infinity CD (if memory serves). It's terrific. I especially love the idea of young people playing his music.

My broadest vision is that all over the country there will be celebrations of Sun Ra's music during the 100th anniversary of his birth. I am not a promoter and do not organize concerts or hire bands. However, being a fan of his music, a former jazz DJ and living in a small town that appreciates music, I sometimes think that perhaps I could pay tribute to Sun Ra and his legacy by organizing a concert or Sun Ra festival.

I'm intrigued by what Ahmed Adullah is doing because he is teaching Sonny's music to young people. He is also a friend. Those are a couple of reasons why I would envision him playing a role in such a festival. I mention David Murray because he would draw an audience in Maine where even most jazz fans are unfamiliar with Sonny's music. NRBQ is a group that has a longtime connection to Sonny, Marshall, Tyrone and others in the Arkestra. They would draw a whole different audience that's unaware of Sun Ra. I mentioned Amira Baraka primarily because I'd like to have people up here hear what he has to say. I was also inspired by his reading of Message From Sun Ra on Hugh Ragin's cd. I'd also love to invite many other interpreters of Ra's music. One in particular who comes to mind is Allan Chase.

Why did I mention the Arkestra last? Because in my vision of a Ra festival, the key element would be having a very wide assortment of musicians performing his music. That's my best thinking (although clumsy I'm sure) about how to spread his music and keep it alive for the generations. By hearing others play his music, perhaps other musicians will also give it a try. Through education, his music will never die.

Would I like to have the Arkestra there in my festival? Of course I would. I'd love it. If I somehow sounded unappreciative of what Marshall has done and is doing, fret not. I remain a huge fan of what he and the Arkestra have accomplished.

Will this festival happen? Well, stay tuned. Being a longtime fan of early jazz, especially Henderson, Don Redman and Fats Waller, I find myself confusing the birth dates of all of them with Sun Ra's. Waller's is in fact the one that we need to celebrate next(1904). Somehow I got it in my head that Sonny's was 06. I stand corrected! That gives us 11 years to plan for a 100th in Maine.

Much love,

John Bunker from Maine

on 4/23/03 4:39 AM, Margaret Davis at musicmargaret@earthlink.net wrote:

Dear Saturnites,

Regarding the New School student band playing music of Sun Ra, I'm all for that, & the fact that it's led by someone who used to be in Sun Ra's Arkestra means that the students should receive an authentic education in the master's music. However, I notice that while the initial press release regarding this group referred to it as >

New School Arkestra in Concert With Sun Ra Alumni

(a fair description, & fine with me), next thing we knew it had evolved into

New School Sun Ra Arkestra.

Then we have this letter from John Bunker proposing to have a Sun Ra festival in Waterville, Maine in the summer of 2OO4 or so, & saying, among other things:

----- Original Message ----- From: "John Bunker" jbunker@gwi.net To: SATURN@NIC.SURFNET.NL Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 3:37 PM Subject: Re: Press Release: New School Sun Ra Arkestra in Concert!

... I'm envisioning showings of various Ra films mixed into the film festival as well as three or four concerts of his music performed by 3 or 4 different groups. There could also be a lecture or two and /or readings Maybe some of the groups would be students -like some of the stuff you do- and some might be Ra alumni -like some of what you also do. I'm thinking you and your various associates would play a major role. I was also thinking of David Murray, Amira Biraka,the rock group NRBQ (friends of Ra) and perhaps the Marshall Allen Ra Arkestra.

"Perhaps"?

To me, at least, there is only one Sun Ra Arkestra, & that is the one founded by Sun Ra himself, who passed its leadership along to the great John Gilmore, who in turn passed its leadership along to Maestro Marshall Allen. I don't know why anyone would want to have a Sun Ra festival & list the Sun Ra Arkestra directed by Maestro Marshall Allen as "perhaps" the fifth choice to be featured in the festival. Mind you, no one's a stronger fan of David Murray or Amiri Baraka than I, but if the concern is the cost of hiring the Sun Ra Arkestra, a year should be enough time to round up some grants & / or sponsors for the festival, & if the festival can't afford the Sun Ra Arkestra, I don't know how it can hope to hire David Murray. If not financial, then I wonder what the "perhaps" & the fifth~choice listing is about.

Will you please elucidate for us, John Bunker?

Margaret Davis Editor & Publisher, "Art Attack!," the publication for & about liberation musicians in New York City (& beyond), on the Web at http://www.jazznewyork.org, musicmargaret@earthlink.net.

P.S. Another trumpeter who used to be in Sun Ra's Arkestra & still plays in the band from time to time also has a Sun Ra offshoot band: Michael Ray & the Cosmic Krewe, it's called. No confusion there.

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