(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Trombonist and composer Craig Harris will lead an ensemble to perform the music of the late Sun Ra, one of the most original voices and visionaries in jazz, at MCLA in the Church Street Center’s Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium on Saturday, November 8, 2014, at 7:30pm. For this concert, Harris will bring together a group of musicians, including the Dartmouth Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble, to perform the complex music of Sun Ra, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of Sun Ra’s birth.
The event is the third concert of the MCLA Presents! “ReWind Season”
“Craig Harris is one of the true gems in the world of jazz,” said Jonathan Secor, former director of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. “He straddles so many styles and genres with such ease. No stranger to MCLA and the Berkshires, we have seen so many sides of Craig Harris: jazz, funk, blues and gospel. And now, with the backing of a 20-piece big band, he channels the music and spirit of a man he played for many decades ago, the great Sun Ra.”
Sun Ra (1914-1993) was a musician, philosopher, poet, composer, keyboardist, arranger and catalyst. Described by Harris as “eclectic, outrageous, sometimes mystifying but always imbued with a powerful jazz consciousness,” Sun Ra was both apart of and ahead of the jazz tradition for nearly three generations. Among his many eccentricities were his belief that he came to Earth from Saturn.
Like Duke Ellington and swing-era pioneer Fletcher Henderson, Sun Ra learned early on to write music in an arranged form that highlighted the specific talents of his individual Arkestra members.
Harris said of his experience performing with Sun Ra, “Sun Ra’s perspective on music in the ritual sense is something that intrigued me. His ability to take music to another realm where it becomes a life force for compositional and improvisational interaction, while producing an all-encompassing visual and audio expression that stimulates one’s mind and spirit, was a great lesson for me.”
Harris performed with the Sun Ra Arkestra for three years, beginning in 1976. He went on to perform with some of progressive jazz’s most important figures – including Cecil Taylor, Sam Rivers, Abdullah Ibrahim, Jaki Byard, Muhal Richard Abrams, David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Lester Bowie, The WORLD Saxophone Quartet, The Roots and RAKIM.
Over the years, Harris has performed numerous times at MCLA – most recently in November 2013 when he worked in residence with MCLA’s Allegrettos to perform “50 Years After the Fire.”
The Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble is the student jazz ensemble of Dartmouth College. Composed almost entirely of non-music majors, the ensemble specializes in the music of the African-American and Afro-Caribbean jazz traditions.
According to Don Glasgo, director of the Barberry Coast Jazz Ensemble, “Sun Ra and Craig Harris are kindred spirits: visionaries whose creativity is an immeasurable equation.”
All proceeds from this concert will benefit the Margaret A. Hart ’35 Scholarship fund. Hart was the first student of color to graduate from the former North Adams State Teachers College, now MCLA.
Admission to this MCLA Presents! Performance is $15. Admission is free for MCLA Presents! members and MCLA students. For more information, (413) 664-8718, or go to MCLA Presents!
MCLA Presents! is a program of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), a collaborative project with MASS MoCA and the City of North Adams. The BCRC provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County.