The strange and exotic figure of Sun Ra plays a treasured role in the lives of alternative music fans, be they jazz goatees or rock hairies.
To his mother he was always Herman Blount, born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1914; in his own mind he might have accepted that name and birthday, but he had changed, abducted by aliens and taught music on the planet Saturn, returning to earth as Sun Ra.
He dressed his band, his Arkestra, in weird and wonderful kitsch costumes, wore a metallic lame, crocheted helmet or pharaoh’s headdress, sat behind his cheap electronic organ – and made some really marvellous music.
The Arkestra was in some ways a fairly conventional big band, influenced by Ellington and Mingus, but with added intergalactic shtick thrown in.
There is an Arkestra still working today, led by a key member of Sun Ra’s band, alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, and you will be able to hear it in concert in July at the Mostly Jazz Festival, in Moseley gardens.
But before that, there is Jerry Dammers’ Spatial A.K.A. Orchestra, playing on the Specials founder’s home turf in Coventry.
Spatial A.K.A. does lots of Sun Ra material but in a more up-to-date, Dammers style. The results are joyous and exciting, with elements of ska, reggae, dub step and jungle.
* Jerry Dammers’ Spatial A.K.A. Orchestra is at Warwick Arts Centre on Thursday at 8pm. Tickets from 0247 652 4524 or www.warwickartscentre.co.uk
* Friday night welcomes an all-too-rare instrument to the Rush Hour Blues stage at Symphony Hall’s foyer – the accordion.
Karen Street is a superb player and brings great jazz spark to this instrument, as well as weaving in some of its folk heritage into her music. She is accompanied by Fred T Baker on guitar, Andy Hamill on bass and Sara Colman on vocals.
They will be heard between 5.30 and 7pm – and for free.
* There are some exciting bassists around, and one of these is Jasper Hoiby.
He was last heard in the Midlands with the Kairos 4tet, but leads his own band, Phronesis, with Ivo Neame on piano and Mark Guiliana on drums.
They are at The Edge Arts Centre, in Much Wenlock, on Saturday at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased from The Edge Box Office on 01952 728 509.
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