SUN RA ARKESTRA at Daniels Spectrum, Saturday, October 20. Rating: NNNN
For their first Toronto appearance in four years, the Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of alto saxophonist Marshall Allen since Sun Ra's death in 1993, performed at the new Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre. This event united the 15-piece pioneering jazz band with kids from the Regent Park School of Music and dancers from Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie dance company performing Bill Coleman's Hymn To Universe, choreography set to the band's music.
From the outset, when the sequin and satin-clad band-many of whom have long since seen their 60th birthday-led the children musicians on a musical parade through the lobby, it was obvious we were seeing something special. Upon entering the new Daniels Spectrum theatre, the playful mood shifted slightly under the watchful eye of Sun Ra looking down from a movie screen.
Apart from a whimsical piece about pregnant men that distracted from Knoel Scott's honeyed vocals on a rendering of Johnny Green's Body And Soul, the choreography was a perfect embodiment of the instrumentation.
By the show's end, old fans and new converts were on their feet and on the stage, dancing and singing along with every performer. This was more than just a concert or a dance performance, it was a true show of community spirit under the umbrella of music.