It's Marshall Allen's 89th birthday on Saturday, and we're all invited to the party. Allen joined Sun Ra's Arkestra in 1958, and he has led the big band since 1995, following Sun Ra's passing in 1993. The saxophonist and flute player, who still lives in the Sun Ra Residence in Philadelphia, has kept the band active touring, recording new arrangements, and guesting with others (the Arkestra appears on the new album from U.K. band Primal Scream, for one). The band can number up to two dozen players, including bassist Charles Davis, who became part of the Arkestra in 1955 (he turned 80 this month), and many of them will cram onto Johnny Brenda's stage for what is sure to be a colorful tour through the history of jazz stretching back to the 1920s and into the indefinite, cosmic future. The Arkestra is a not-to-be-missed Philadelphia treasure.
- Steve Klinge
File this one under oddball collaborations you wouldn't ever expect to happen, let alone work, but somehow it does.
Hokey Fright (Fifth Element)
, the first album by the Uncluded, pairs charmingly childlike singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson - best known for her work with the Moldy Peaches and the
soundtrack - with underground rapper and producer Aesop Rock. The hip-hopper, real name Ian Bavitz, first sent Dawson a fan letter in 2007, it turns out, and they have guested on each other's recent albums. On
, the results can sometimes be, well, hokey, as on "Superheroes," a mercifully brief track in which the duo simply shout out the names of their favorite songwriters. But more frequently, they mesh quite well. The two share a love for clever, warmhearted wordplay, and Aesop Rock's has a knack for fleshing out Dawson's acoustic strumming with subtle simpatico beats on tracks like the extended laundry-room metaphor "Delicate Cycle." It'll be interesting to see whether they can pull it off live.
- Dan DeLuca