Transcendental Night with Jazz Legends Sun Ra Arkestra and Pharoah Sanders

Red Bull Music Academy's spiritual jazz evening included legends Sun Ra Arkestra and Pharoah Sanders plus a set from Kamasi Washington.
Kamasi Washington

Going into the Red Bull Music Academy’s “Where Spaceways Meet: A Night of Spiritual Jazz” event, I had imagined there would be a few instances of collaboration between the musicians slated to appear. Unfortunately, that was not the case but audiences were still treated to incredible sets from the groundbreaking artists, Sun Ra Arkestra, Pharoah Sanders and newcomer Kamasi Washington. First thing to mention though, I had to miss most of Kamasi Washington’s set, which was a big disappointment for me, but I was truly pleased with what I had seen and heard by that point.

RMBA events are often in venues off the beaten path of the typical NYC circuit. Last year FKA twigs was at Brooklyn Hangar and this event took place in a warehouse near the river in Greenpoint, with the stage set up in the round so the audience could get a 360 view of the bands performing. I hadn’t ever seen Sun Ra Arkestra or Sanders though I have seen Washington twice, including his first NYC run at Blue Note.

Sun Ra Arkestra, led by the spry 91 year old Marshall Allen, played a beautiful set that at times verged on meditative or, at other points, ventured outward to an intergalactic plane (their first tine was “Interplanetary Music” after all). But Sanders was the standout of the two. His grandchildren standing behind me, I felt my face melt as the 75 year old tenor saxophonist performed a tremendous, trippy set that included his past collaborator John Coltrane’s “Ole”, “Naima”, “Colors” and “The Creator Has a Master Plan”. In comparison to those legends, Washington is youthful at 35 and has only recently made a name for himself following the release of his debut three hour album The Epic last year. His prominence is drawing crowds and this night, his eighth proper show in NYC, was sold out. Washington’s next NYC show, FREE at Summerstage, will likely result in long lines of people waiting to see him perform.

Until then though, Red Bull Music Academy events continue through May 22nd. There is an outdoor Brooklyn Flea Record Fair Saturday May 14th, the world premiere of Anohni’s Hopelessness on the 18th and 19th at the Park Ave Armory and several other unique events still to come.


Pharoah Sanders