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Musical Explorations Unfold in the Bay Area with Notable Trios and the Legendary Sun Ra Arkestra

by Madonna

In a bustling week for cultural activities in the Mission and surrounding neighborhoods, several noteworthy events demand attention. The Red Poppy Art House, a longstanding bastion of musical experimentation, takes center stage this Saturday with an electrifying doubleheader featuring the Supplicants and SticklerPhonics.

The Supplicants, a trio with an enduring association with the venue spanning two decades, present a rare convergence with the return of Sameer Gupta to the East Bay. Renowned for their cosmic and spiritually infused performances, the trio, consisting of Gupta on drum kit, tabla, and percussion, David Ewell on standup bass, and David Boyce on saxophones and bass clarinet, is reclaiming its roots. Gupta, instrumental in launching the Brooklyn Raga Massive underground Indian music scene, expresses the trio’s renewed commitment to capturing the Coltrane spiritual vibe.

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The band’s improvisational ethos, established since their initial meeting and documented in the 2001 album “1st Encounter” (Isotope Records), continues to drive their performances. Notably, Boyce curates the long-running Friday night music series, Other Dimensions In Sound, at Medicine For Nightmares Bookstore & Gallery.

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Meanwhile, SticklerPhonics, a recent addition to the Bay Area scene, offers a glimpse into their debut album, “Technicolor Ghost Parade.” Comprising drummer Scott Amendola, trombonist Danny Lubin-Laden, and tenor saxophonist Raffi Garabedian, the trio navigates uncharted musical terrain, eschewing traditional anchors like bass and chords. Drawing inspiration from a diverse array of jazz practices, SticklerPhonics’ sonic palette extends from New Orleans polyphony and ambient soundscapes to funk and free jazz.

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Their debut album includes tracks influenced by legends such as Tony Allen, Oumou Sangar√©, and hip hop pioneers. “Well Blazed,” for instance, draws inspiration from D’Angelo drummer Chris “Daddy” Dave and the late producer J. Dilla, resulting in a dynamic piece that seamlessly blends composed sections with improvisation.

In other musical explorations, the iconic Sun Ra Arkestra, under the leadership of 99-year-old alto saxophonist Marshall Allen since 1995, is set to captivate audiences during a three-night residency at the Great American Music Hall from February 6-8. The residency showcases the Arkestra’s expansive range, featuring big band swing, Outer Space Jazz, and concluding with “The World Is Not A Ghetto.”

A seminal figure in Afro-futurism, Sun Ra, born Herman Poole Blount in 1914, left an indelible mark on the music scene until his departure in 1993. Pianist, keyboardist, composer, and poet, Ra’s intricate music, characterized by extended techniques and dense textures, reflected his commitment to awakening consciousness through art. His philosophy, conveyed through poetry and music, remains a testament to the enduring impact of the Sun Ra Arkestra, whose residency promises to be a transcendent musical experience.

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