The Guelph Jazz Festival last week (Sept 3 through 7), held in a mostly placid river-run university town about 60 miles west of Toronto, climaxed with a blast-off to other worlds fueled by the Sun Ra Arkestra (led by saxophonist Marshall Allen) and Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie dance troupe. Photographer Lauren Deutsch captured the ecstasy of concert-goers joining musicians and movers onstage, more eager than Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to clamber aboard the aliens’ spaceship.
Attendees at that penultimate concert (it was followed by a intensely propulsive performance by master drummer Milford Graves with tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan and pianist DD Jackson) had been prepared. The 100th anniversary year of Sun Ra’s arrival on Earth (May 24, 1914; his parents called him Herman Blount) occasioned keynote speeches, scholarly presentations and a panel of journalists (including yours truly) at the Guelph Jazz Colloquium. There was much interesting if sometimes esoteric discussion of ideas and speculations inspired at least in part by Ra, the visionary and prophetic composer/arranger/keyboardist/conceptualist/pamphleteer who experienced his own lift off May 30, 1993. I’m compelled to include this ancient video clip of Sun Ra in Sardinia and at the pyramids:
I’ll have a fuller review of the Festival and Colloquium in an upcoming edition of The Wire — but admit here and now that I abandoned conventions of journalistic objectivity when I was called by a dancer to take to the aisles, buzzing to a jaunty Ra riff. And I feel all the better for that.