New book: Picture Infinity - Marshall Allen & The Sun Ra Arkestra


Sign in to view read count
Multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen is among the most striking voices in jazz. His explosive alto saxophone is signature sound of the Sun Ra Arkestra, an iconic African-American big band which he joined in 1958. Succeeding the bands legendary founder Sun Ra who already in his lifetime has turned into a myth of its own, Marshall Allen has directed the Sun Ra Arkestra since 1995. Under the guidance of the 87-year old maestro, the Sun Ra Arkestra has not only survived all the jazz tides but is still cult, and continues to inspire old audiences as well as more and more young people.

“I'm actually painting pictures of infinity with my music, and that's why a lot of people can't understand it," Sun Ra stated in 1970. His music, however, definitely belongs to the 20th century's musical canon—although, it hardly can be looked upon as a fixed constant. When Sun Ra founded his band around 1952, the extraordinarily gifted pianist, composer and arranger gave it many names, but he always called it “Arkestra," meant as a symbiosis of Ark and orchestra, connoting an institution navigating from the past into the future. The “Arkestra" is Sun Ra's legacy. Even now, its musicians epitomize his oeuvre, and they hand the ken down to the next generation. Thus, Marshall Allen maintained the mastermind's method, without conserving it. And that is how the Arkestra has actually savely arrived at the 21st Century, and is still travelling the globe on Sun Ra's mission—Noah's Ark and avant-garde project in one, stem cell, root and sprout of jazz.

Sibylle Zerr portrays the big band from Philadelphia over a time span of eight years. The monograph, however, stays a fragment by intention, being an open-end collection of photos, quotations and essays worthy of further consideration. This portrayal of the mystery of the music makes Sun Ra's legacy more palpable—without glamourizing or disenchanting it.

Sibylle Zerr graduated in cultural anthropology from Heidelberg University, and works as an author and photo journalist. Her works have been published in magazines and newspapers, as well as in book form; her book debut “Blues für einen Schmetterling" (published 2006 in the German language), a collection of interviews, reportages, short stories and photos from pre-Katrina New Orleans, has been widely acclaimed.

152 pages, 86 photos
5.98 x 8.46 inches
Hardcover, 470 gram
Language: English
Publisher: Zerr, Sibylle
ISBN 978-3-00-035497-7


Post a comment


Jazz News

All About Jazz Top 10 Tracks: April 2021
Connect with All About Jazz / Jazz Near You
Giant Steps: Diverse Journeys in British Jazz


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.