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Sun Ra Arkestra, William Parker Bring “Sounds of Justice” to NYC’s Town Hall

The March 4 concert will celebrate the 25th anniversary of avant-garde jazz organization Arts For Art

Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Newport Jazz Festival, August 2, 2019
Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Newport Jazz Festival, August 2, 2019 (photo: Marek Lazarski)

Arts For Art (AFA), a New York City-based nonprofit organization for the promotion and advancement of avant-garde jazz, celebrates its 25th year of programming with a March 4 program at Town Hall in Manhattan called “Sounds of Justice.”

The evening will feature multimedia performances by two iconic artists of the avant-garde: the Sun Ra Arkestra and bassist William Parker’s Curtis Mayfield Project.

Parker and his wife, Patricia Nicholson Parker, co-founded AFA in 1996 to produce the Vision Festival, a major international festival of experimental music that’s held in New York City each spring. While Vision remains its flagship event, AFA organizes numerous performance events each year.

The March 4 program at Town Hall will showcase jazz artists whose work values music and art as agents of social change.

Keyboardist, composer, and arranger Sun Ra (né Herman “Sonny” Blount of Birmingham, Alabama) founded the Sun Ra Arkestra in the mid-1950s as a vehicle for performing his original compositions and arrangements, ranging from accessible swing- and bop-based material to highly experimental free and avant-garde pieces. Ra led the Arkestra for nearly 40 years, through multiple configurations, personnel changes, and a band name that sometimes changed from gig to gig. Since his death in 1993, the band has been led by longtime member and saxophonist Marshall Allen. The Sun Ra Arkestra continues to perform Ra’s repertoire.

Their performance during “Sounds of Justice” will also feature live video art and live painting by artist William Mazza.

New York native William Parker studied bass with Jimmy Garrison, Richard Davis, and Wilbur Ware, becoming active on the city’s creative music scene in the early 1970s when he began working with pianist Cecil Taylor. He has made his home on the Lower East Side since 1975 and is regarded as one of the most important musicians in the history of avant-garde jazz.

Parker’s Curtis Mayfield Project, also known as “The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield,” began in 2001. The bassist has released two albums of Mayfield’s songs and has continued the project through several variations. At Town Hall, he brings an expanded version of the band with vocalist Leena Conquest and poet/spoken word artist Thomas Sayers Ellis. In addition, their performance will be accompanied with video by filmmaker Moon Lasso.

Tickets to the performance are available at Town Hall’s website.