Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sun Ra Arkestra at The Squat Theatre, NYC: 1979 to 1981

Excerpts from the above web site of Arkestra appearances at the Squat Theatre between 1979 and 1981.

Sun Ra Arkestra; Dorothy Donegan & Sun Ra duet 14-Aug-79 First landing of the Arkestra at Squat. Sun Ra would go on to become our most frequent guest, appearing 47 times during the life of the club. The fit between the Arkestra and the Squat Theatre was a natural one, as both were in essence creative communes.

Sun Ra Arkestra; Dorothy Donegan & Sun Ra duet 15-Aug-79 Members of the Arkestra during this period included John Gilmore, Marshall Allen [on the photo], Elo Omoe, Danny Thompson [on the photo], Michael Ray, June Tyson [on the photo], Pat Patrick, Hayes Burnett, and James Jackson, Jr.

Sun Ra Arkestra; Dorothy Donegan & Sun Ra duet 16-19 Aug-79 Dorothy Donegan (1922-1998) was not widely known, but was regarded by other musicians as one of the great Chicago jazz pianists.

Sun Ra Arkestra 24-Aug-79 "Back by popular demand." We originally had booked Nana Vasconcelos for this weekend but he was rescheduled.

Sun Ra Arkestra 6-Sep-79

Sun Ra Cosmo Jet Set Arkestra 21-23 Sep-79

Sun Ra and his Jazz Discography Cosmo Jet-Set Angel Ensemble 27-Oct-79

Sun Ra Arkestra 6-8 Dec-79 Our most reliable event. We could usually break even with a Sun Ra show and at least make sure that the electricity would stay on for another week (the heat was another story). The regular gigs at Squat were good for Ra as well, who had an entire commune to support. The exposure from the frequent gigs at Squat also helped open up other gigs for him at clubs such as Club 57/Irving Plaza.

Sun Ra Arkestra 22-Dec-79

Sun Ra Arkestra 12-Jan-80

Sun Ra Arkestra 2-Feb-80 While we often struggled to attract a public, Squat was a great favorite with the music critics. This was important because a "Voice Choice" pick or other mention in the press could make the difference between breaking even or taking a loss for the night. Robert Palmer, Peter Ochiogrosso, and Jon Pareles from the NY Times wrote positive things about the club. Robert Christgau from the Voice was supportive of our jazz/blues fusion events. Perhaps our biggest supporter was Michael Shore from the Soho Weekly News. Michael was a huge Sun Ra fan and a great friend to the club. He would probably have given us a plug every week if his editors would have let him get away with it.

from Michael Shore via e-mail:

I thought we DID write you guys up every time Sun Ra played at Squat! :) To me, of course, there was no musical experience in the known universe to compare with Ra's, and as I did write time after time after time in my Soho Weekly News "Music Picks," there was no better place to experience him than Squat: a house band as big as the cosmos itself, in a house so cozy and unpretentious it felt like home? Or at least, like the house down the street where those cool new Balkan-rollin' neighbors always had a happenin' party with the MOST exquisite music...

So many fond, fun memories of those magical, wonderfully endless Nights Of Ra at Squat - the time there was a massive blizzard yet the house was at least half-filled for Ra, and half the band arrived an hour late for the first show and played as hypnotically as ever, while the rest of the band gradually straggled in through the snow...and not only did nobody in the audience leave, but I believe more people filtered in to experience the Intergalactic Cosmo Jet-Set traveling circus medicine show...Or the time it was SO packed one of Ra's dancers tripped over a slightly inebriated fan sitting on the floor in front of the stage, and Ra got furious and lectured the crowd about how he oughta pick up and leave right then and there - Giorgio Gomelsky yelled from the back "but Sun Ra, he loves you! we all love you!" Giorgio and others of us in the audience engaged Ra in an intense prolonged bout of debate and pleading - talk about "cosmo drama," it was pure white-knuckle theater (how appropriate!) and Ra did finally calm down and stay to finish the show...or the time late late late one night Ra was parading through the crowd as he always did, chanting "you gotta LEAVE this planet!" and he got to the bleachers in the back where I always sat and a guy was passed out on the 2nd bleacher level and Ra leaned right in his face and screamed "YOU GOTTA LEAVE THIS PLANET!" and the guy woke up and ran outta there time the stage was switched from the back wall to the front, with the window onto 23rd Street behind the band - so if you looked hard, you could see passersby peering in - a very "Squat Theater" thing to do!...

...and of course hanging out with the men of the Arkestra between shows at the bar- or getting a drink during the show, usually from the indefatigable Klara, or sometimes even future-star Esther Balint, and exchanging knowing wide-eyed glances with them at the sheer wonder of Ra's unfolding Saturnian spectacles. Speaking of that bar...Ronnie Burrage, I still feel badly about that time I tripped down the bleachers and spilled my drink and yours on you...and that's the ONLY bad Squat memory I have! I know I've gone on and on here, but Squat - thank you for enriching my life more than I can say!

Sun Ra Arkestra 5-Feb-80 We billed this as: "Pre-European Tour Bon Voyage Party Time."

Sun Ra Arkestra 25-Apr-80

Sun Ra Arkestra 10-May-80

Sun Ra Arkestra 22-Apr-80 Unrelated historical side note: this is the day that Joy Division had been scheduled to make their US debut (at Hurrah on W. 62nd St.). They had to cancel their trip because of Ian Curtis' suicide.

Sun Ra Arkestra 4-5 Jul-80 Our ad tag line this week read: "The very best of Newport."

Sun Ra Arkestra 25- 26 Jul-80

Sun Ra Arkestra 8-9 Aug-80

Sun Ra Arkestra 22-23 Aug-80

Sun Ra Arkestra 30-Aug-80

Sun Ra Arkestra, plus special previews of Sun Ra movies 5-6 Sep-80

Sun Ra Arkestra 19-20 Sep-80 "Last N.Y. performance before interplanetary tour."

Sun Ra Arkestra 8-9 Nov-80 Squat reopens. "Sun Ra Arkestra: A rare appearance on planet Earth."

Sun Ra Arkestra 5-6 Dec-80

Sun Ra 15-16 Jan-81

Sun Ra: Venus Party 6-Feb-81

Sun Ra: Saturn Party 7-Feb-81

Sun Ra Arkestra 21-Feb-81 "Last concert before European tour."

Sun Ra Arkestra 24-25 Apr THE SOHO NEWS APRIL 22, 1981 MUSIC PICKS BY MICHAEL SHORE SUN RA & HIS ARKESTRA If you were REALLY thrilled by the space shuttle, you owe it to yourself to experience the real thing, in the locale where Ra's always at his most awesome. Squat Theater, Fri.-Sat. (Shore)

Sun Ra Arkestra 8-May Unrelated historical side note: Anya Phillips had been diagnosed with cancer. On May 7, many of the musicians associated with Squat performed at the midtown megaclub Bond's in what was billed as the "James White Funkathon: gala benefit for Anya Phillips medical expenses." The event was hosted by Glen O'Brien and featured (among many others): August Darnell; Joe Bowie; Arto Lindsay; Richard Hell; Ivan Julian; Tish and Snooky; Rob Duprey; Brenda Bergman; Walter Stedding. For me, the highlight of the evening was Blondie (Debby Harry, Chris Stein, Jimmy Destri) jamming with Chic (Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers) on "Good Times."

Sun Ra Arkestra 9-May This was the final concert at the Squat nightclub. We presented approximately 254 music events during the 22 months that the club was open (from July 13, 1979 to May 9, 1981). The performance space would soon be used for the Squat Theatre's next production: "Mr. Dead & Mrs. Free," which was influenced by the creative cross-pollination that had occurred in the nightclub.

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