Live Concert Photography: Summer Thunder at Union Pool 6/10/17: Sun Ra Arkestra
Presented by Academy Records and popular Williamsburg hotspot and music venue Union Pool, Summer Thunder is a weekly showcase throughout the summer featuring some of the world’s best bands and DJs playing Union Pool’s back patio — for free with drink specials and sometimes, even cheap tacos. Last weekend’s Summer Thunder featured the Sun Ra Arkestra playing two sets of the mind-bending cosmic jazz of their legendary and eccentrically avant-garde founder, composer, synth player, poet, bandleader and pianist Sun Ra.
Tracing their origins back to the 1950s, the collective has had a long-held reputation for an extremely flexible and mutable array of friends and collaborators performing under a number of different yet similar names; but no matter what, the members of the collective have reflected its founder and leader’s uncompromising and mischievously weird aesthetic and approach, in which free jazz, noise, drone, funk, bop jazz, jazz fusion, ambient electronica, sci fi and ancient Egyptian mythology were meshed together into a trippy mix.
And although Sun Ra and his Arkestra were largely considered incredibly strange in an era in which artists were restlessly experimenting and pushing sonic boundaries, the act is considered one of the pioneering acts of the Afrofuturism movement, influencing the aesthetic of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic through contemporary artists including Shabazz Palaces and others. Now, as you may know Sun Ra died more than 20 years ago; however, nonagenarian Marshall Allen, who has been a member of the Arkestra since 1957 has continued playing Sun Ra’s music with a backing band featuring some surviving core members and a collection of newcomers, ensuring that Sun Ra’s eccentric and joyful artistic vision, rooted around a message of peace, understanding and cosmic love could be passed on to younger generations of musicians and music fans. Check out some photos from the second set of the afternoon below.