Friday, June 9, 2006
Marshall Allen and James Harrar
By MICHAEL PRONKO
The works of Sun Ra band member (and now leader) Marshall Allen and alternative filmmaker James Harrar don't fit neatly into simple genres like "jazz" or "film," but as collaborators, they ably create their own passionate hybrid.
Since their first meeting 10 years ago, Harrar has been archiving and editing old Sun Ra footage, while Allen has been creating music for Harrar's films. They bring their provocative, exciting collaboration to Japan for a tour next week.
Sun Ra's music was so far ahead of its time that few understood what the spaceman-turned-bandleader was trying to convey, either musically or in his extemporaneous philosophizing. The band members apparently did, though, and Allen was one of the most essential contributors to their sound. He played alto sax, flute, percussion and any instrument Sun Ra might challenge him to. After Ra passed away, followed on closely by lead saxophonist John Gilmore, Allen nominally took up the band's reins -- it was never really into direction or control after all. Now in his 80s, he's lost none of his musical brilliance.
For the tour, Allen, Harrar and several guest musicians will be improvising live and showing films from Sun Ra performances that have rarely if ever been seen here, as well as new works from Harrar. As Harrar said to The Japan Times by phone, "As a musician Marshall does with sound what I do with visuals; both are living structures that can change people's being. Art disorients you, shakes you up and takes you out of your normal day." What better reason to go out to a show?
Marshall Allen and James Harrar play June 15, 7 p.m., at Shibuya Uplink with a screening of the film "Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise" and an interview with improvisational musician Manabu Yuasa afterward ( 6825-5502, www.uplink.co.jp); June 16, 7 p.m., at Nagoya's Tokuzo ( 733-3709, www.tokuzo.com); June 17, 6 p.m. at Kyoto's Metro ( 752-4765, www.metro.ne.jp); June 18 at Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media ( 920-6111, www.ycam.jp); June 22, 7:30 p.m. at Roppongi's Super Deluxe with guitarist R.E. Mahoney, Daisuke Fuwa of Shibusa Shirazu, Takashi Ueno of Tenniscoats and shakuhachi player Akikazu Nakamura.