LIVE: “Interplanetary Music: An Evening of Sun Ra” @ the BSP Lounge, 11/27/16
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
Space is the Place… The word went out and some of the best rock and jazz musicians in Greater Nippertown and the Hudson Valley were assembled by producer/bassist Scott Petito to shake off our tryptophan-induced post-Thanksgiving drowsiness with “Interplanetary Music: An Evening of Sun Ra” at the BSP Lounge in Kingston.
Taking on the music of the late Sun Ra is in and of itself a challenge. Transmitting the joy, spontaneity and wonder of the music is an even greater challenge.
For the uninitiated, Sun Ra was a prolific composer, bandleader known for his experimental music that navigated almost the entire history of American music ranging from doo wop, swing, modal jazz, free jazz and fusion. He pioneered the use of electronics and toured extensively with his elaborately costumed Arkestra. He died in 1993.
At the BSP Lounge, the 14-member band appeared complete with elaborate make-shift costumes to set the tone. Petito himself was in a golden cape; many other members wore tin-foil hats, newsboy caps, wizard hats and costumes. Scarves, African dashikis, safety goggles, various overcoats and even a Daily Gazette cap were included among the accessories. Due to the large number of people performing, they did not all fit on the stage, the piano and large gong were unlit and some other members were obscured from view.
The band swung into high gear from the opening number, “Tiny Pyramids,” unleashing a sound that filled the entire club with a cacophonous yet unified sound. A five-member horn section provided both the body and the color of the music.
Grasshopper played various instruments and added sound effects. Petito kept the drive of the music going with his bass and occasional commands/chants. Guitarist Conor Kennedy would, on occasion, add blazing leads on his guitar, bolstering the density and complexity of the music.
The rhythm section of Mark Ferraro and Lee Falco on trap drums with percussionist Baba Kazi Oliver gave the performances the heartbeat, often playing off of each other as well as the band. The large gong played by Theresa Lynn Windham added grandeur to the music.
Lead vocals were provided by a seated Veronica Nunn (associated with Michael Franks) with many of the musicians acting as the chorus. Sun Ra gems such as “Space Is the Place,” “Rocket Number Nine” and “We Travel the Spaceways” were all performed with great enthusiasm and delight.
The audience was invited to sing along to “Interplanetary Music” and did so with great delight and gusto. It was something like a swingin’ Pete Seeger sing-along while traveling through outer space.
All in all, a great time was had by all, musician and audience alike. Space is indeed the place. And hopefully Space will be another place soon…
Scott Petito – Bass, electronics
Conor Kennedy (Minstrel) – Guitar
Sean “Grasshopper” Mackowiak (Mercury Rev) – Guitar, electronics
Mark Ferraro – Drums
Lee Falco (Minstrel) – Drums
Travis Shook – Keyboards
Baba Kazi Oliver – Percussion
Theresa Lynn Windham – Gong
Veronica Nunn– Vocals
Keith Pray – Alto Sax
Jeff Nania – Tenor Sax
Mitch Kessler – Baritone Sax
Chris Pasin – Trumpet
Alex Slomka – Trombone
INTERPLANETARY MUSIC SET LIST
A Call to All Demons
We Travel the Spaceways
As You Once Were
Space Is the Place
Rocket Number Nine
Have You Heard the Latest News from Neptune
GO HERE to see more of Rudy Lu’s photographs of this concert…