Sun Ra Arkestra ‘Swirling’ (Strut)

Now 96, Marshall Allen leads the late Sun Ra’s Arkestra on a rich celebration of catalogue-straddling classics. Tara Middleton’s astral solo vocal on opening track, ‘The Satellites Are Spinning’, before the entry of a discordant chamber ensemble, including veterans Michael Ray and Knoel Scott, declares this is no mere rehash of past glories (saxophonist Danny Ray Thompson and percussionist Stanley “Atakatune” Morgan have sadly died since it was recorded).

Other chestnuts on this first Arkestra album since 1999’s ‘Song For The Sun’ include the densely weightless ‘Angels And Demons At Play’, Middleton shining again on ‘Seductive Fantasy’ and ‘Astro Black’, faithful ‘Rocket No 9’, free-form space chaos on ‘Infinity, I’ll Wait For You’, and even a rollicking ‘Unmask The Batman’. 

The Arkestra’s later space chants and Ellington brass are in rude health on ‘The Sky Is The Sea of Darkness’ and eerie ‘Space Loneliness’, Allen’s loping title track further stoking creative fires obviously still burning brightly. 

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