Sun Ra Arkestra announce Living Sky (Omni Sound), their new album out October 7th. In conjunction, Sun Ra Arkestra shares its lead single, “Somebody Else’s Idea.” For more than two decades, the disciple that has most visibly carried on Sun Ra Arkestra’s legacy and sound is their musical director, alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, the iconic fire-breather and life force that restored the Arkestra’s vitality in the massive vacuum left by Ra and John Gilmore’s death in the ‘90s. Allen turned 98 in 2022 and, as evidenced by Living Sky, his influence and leadership remain undiminished. Marking the Arkestra’s first new recording since their 2021 Grammy-nominated album Swirling, Living Sky was recorded on June 15, 2021 at Rittenhouse SoundWorks in Philadelphia and features a total of nineteen musicians, including a strings section. It was mixed and mastered by three-time Grammy winner Dave Darlington (Eddie Palmieri, Brian Lynch, Wayne Shorter).
Living Sky was commissioned by executive producer Ahmet Ulug, who has a long history with the Arkestra, dating back to the 1980s when he regularly listened to the group in Philadelphia and New York, and promoted Sun Ra’s Istanbul show in 1990 (as well as numerous shows with the Arkestra after Ra departed Planet Earth). After retiring from the music industry a few years ago, the current state of the world moved Ulug to step back into the fold, launching Omni Sound (named after a note Sun Ra wrote during his visit to Istanbul, “Omniverse is the totality of all universes and you are welcome to be citizens of Omniverse)” and collaborating with the group that ignited his interest in jazz and improvised music. Omni Sound reached out to Allen to commission a new instrumental album from the group, requesting sounds “Spiritual and hypnotic and to that effect down tempo, melodic and grooving…….from the kora to EVI; ancient to the future. Music that is accessible and healing in the Covid era.” In July of 2021, Allen fulfilled the request with Living Sky, a gorgeous collection of music.
Living Sky includes the first instrumental recording of Ra’s “Somebody Else’s Idea,” today’s lead single, originally recorded in 1955 and again in 1970 for proper release on 1971’s My Brother The Wind, Vol II. Without June Tyson’s fierce vocal presence, “Somebody Else’s Idea” feels more measured, allowing for the hovering harmonic movement to glide into the foreground with the horns modulating their volume and presence in each cycle and bringing in new details, whether it be the mewling trumpets of Michael Ray and Cecil Brooks or the seeking sound flurries blow by Allen on Electronic Valve Instrument.
“‘Somebody Else’s Idea’ is an affirmation that the world I live in is a world that I can change,” says baritone saxophonist Knoel Scott. “The first part of change is not accepting the status, the so-called status quo, in rejecting the status quo, I free myself to the possibilities which range amongst the infinite. It is our desire. There are those who listen to our music also embrace the possibilities which range beyond the limits of the impossible.”