Berklee Presents Sun Ra Cosmic Centenary

By 
Nick Balkin
February 3, 2014
Danny Ray Thompson

The Signature Series at Berklee continues with Sun Ra Cosmic Centenary, celebrating the 100th anniversary of one of the most eclectic and electric musicians of the 20th century, Sun Ra. This concert will feature performances by former members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Marshall Allen, Charles Davis, and Danny Ray Thompson, as well as an all-star Berklee faculty ensemble directed by bass professor Dave Clark.

Sun Ra Cosmic Centenary takes place on Thursday, February 20, 8:15 p.m., at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets are $8 in advance, $12 day of show, and are available at berkleebpc.com, by calling 617 747-2261, or at the BPC box office. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

A composer, keyboardist, poet, and visionary, Sun Ra gave legendary performances that touched on everything from ragtime and swing to bebop and free jazz. Although he claimed to be from Saturn, he was born Herman Sonny Blount in Birmingham, Alabama. As a teen, he demonstrated prodigious musical talent and started performing semi-professionally.

He started his career in 1946 in Chicago, as a pianist/arranger with bandleader Fletcher Henderson. In 1953, he formed his big band, the Arkestra, and the ensemble began experimenting with synthesizers and free jazz. Ra spent most of the 1960s in New York, where he performed some of his most adventurous material. In 1968, he relocated his band to Philadelphia, which would become his base of operations for more than 20 years. Following Ra's death in 1993, the Arkestra has continued to tour and perform.

Pat Patrick, the father of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, was a saxophonist and long-term member of the Sun Ra Arkestra. After his death, his children learned that he had left a voluminous collection of photos, scores, concert programs, and memorabilia. The collection was donated to Berklee's Africana Studies Archive in 2010.