We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
This past June, the New York Times found the remaining members of Sun Ra’s Arkestra still on Earth, far from moonbeams and monorails. If space is the place, well, Philly’s Germantown neighborhood is Arkestra band leader Marshall Allen’s last stop before liftoff. A tumbledown three-story town house there has served as the Arkestra’s home base since 1968. Sun Ra died in 1993, and it’s now up to Allen (pictured), 81, to carry the word and the reeds. “We have a nucleus that still rehearses and lives together here,” he told the Times. “We play several days a week. Not every day like when Sun Ra was alive, but whoever’s here, we rehearse.” Jazz nerds must have salivated over the news that Ra’s electric keyboards hadn’t been thrown out. And they must have gone gaga when they found out that hundreds of original Ra charts—much of the music never performed—remain intact. But I can’t help thinking it’s all a pretty raw deal for Allen. It’s not as if he were the third bassist in a late-’70s incarnation of Funkadelic. In that townhouse, the reporter noted, there were dried roses from both Ra’s and John Gilmore’s funerals. The man had been with Ra forever, and he now serves as bandleader and curator by the simple fact that he’s alive. And he is still poor as shit. This weekend, Allen leaves his crumbling museum to confer with other saxophone masters as part of the David Bond Free Jazz Festival, bringing with him a few other Arkestra members. Expect a most lively vigil, with a mix of originals and maybe, if we’re lucky, even a lost tune or two. The ensemble plays at 9 and 11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $25. (202) 234-0072.