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New Sun Ra Arkestra Studio Album on the Way

The legendary ensemble is preparing to release its first collection of new music in more than 20 years

Marshall Allen
Marshall Allen leading the Sun Ra Arkestra at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival (photo: Marek Lazarski)

Although fabled bandleader Sun Ra died in 1993, his ensemble the Arkestra has carried on, under the direction first of the late John Gilmore and–since 1995—alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, now 96 years old. The band has continued to play concerts and festivals regularly for the past quarter-century. Recording sessions, however, have been far less frequent; the last Arkestra studio album was Song for the Sun in 1999.

But that’s about to change. Yesterday (June 23) Allen and the Arkestra announced that they’ve been hard at work at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia and will be releasing their first new studio recordings in 21 years on the Strut label. No date other than “the very near future” was given, but the group offered fans a taste of what they’ve been laying down with the video below. The song, which will appear on the new album, is a revised version of Ra’s “Seductive Fantasy,” first recorded on 1979’s On Jupiter; the eye-catching animation was created by Canadian musician /artist Chad Van Gaalen.

In early March, the Arkestra took part in a concert at New York’s Town Hall celebrating the 25th anniversary of the nonprofit organization Arts for Art. It was one of the last major jazz concerts to be held in Manhattan before the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the city’s clubs and theaters. Go here to see a gallery of images from that evening.