Allen, alto saxophone, flute, clarinet,
oboe, kora, E.V.I., arrangements and conduction.
Belford Allen, alto saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, composer,
bandleader, and arranger, was born May 25, 1924 in Louisville,
Kentucky and started clarinet lessons at age 10. At 18, he enlisted
in the Army's 92nd Infantry (renowned as the Buffalo Soldiers),
playing clarinet and alto saxophone in the 17th Division Special
Service Band. Stationed in Paris during World War II, he played
with pianist Art Simmons and saxophonist Don Byas, and he toured
and recorded with James Moody during the late '40's. Upon honorable
discharge, Mr. Allen enrolled in the Paris Conservatory of Music,
studying clarinet with Delacluse. Returning to the States in 1951,
Marshall settled in Chicago, where he led his own bands, playing
in clubs and dance halls, while writing his own music and arrangements,
as he continues to do today.
the mid-'50's, Marshall met Sun Ra and became a student of his
precepts. After joining the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1958, Marshall
Allen led Sun Ra's formidable reed section for over 40 years (a
role akin to the position of Johnny Hodges in the Duke Ellington
orchestra). Marshall Allen lived, rehearsed, toured and recorded
with Sun Ra almost exclusively for much of his musical career,
leading the reed section during the time that the Sun Ra Arkestra
won the "Downbeat" polls as number-one big band in 1988
and 1989. As a featured soloist with the Arkestra, Marshall pioneered
the avante-garde jazz movement of the early '60's, expanding a
style rooted in Johnny Hodges and Don Byas, and influencing all
leading avante-garde saxophonists thereafter. During this time,
Marshall also invented a woodwind instrument he called the "morrow,"
utilizing a saxophone mouthpiece attached to an open-hole wooden
body. (This instrument is currently being marketed under another
name, as Marshall never secured a patent on his invention).
Allen was one of the first jazz musicians to play traditional
African music and what is now called "world music,"
working frequently with Olatunji and his Drums of Passion. In
fact, Marshall is most likely the sole jazz musician who builds
and plays the kora (a popular West African multi-stringed instrument),
and he has been a major factor in its introduction to American
audiences, as well as the world at large.
Allen is featured on over 200 Sun Ra releases, as well as appearing
as special guest soloist in concert and on recordings with such
diverse groups as NRBQ, Phish, Sonic Youth, Diggable Planets,
Terry Adams, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.
most significantly, Marshall Allen assumed the helm of the Sun
Ra Arkestra in 1995 after the ascension of Sun Ra in 1993 and
John Gilmore in 1995. Mr. Allen continues to reside at the Sun
Ra Residence in Philadelphia, composing, writing and arranging
for the Arkestra much like his mentor, totally committed to a
life of discipline centered totally on the study, research, and
further development of Sun Ra's musical precepts.
maintains the Sun Ra residence as a living museum dedicated to
the compilation, restoration and preservation of Sun Ra's music,
memorabilia, and artifacts. Marshall has launched the Sun Ra Arkestra
into a dimension beyond that of mere "ghost" band by
writing fresh arrangements of Sun Ra's music, as well as composing
new music for the Arkestra. He works unceasingly to keep the big-band
tradition alive, reworking arrangements of the music of Fletcher
Henderson and Jimmie Lunceford for the Arkestra to play, along
with many other American standards.
Allen is recognized all over the world as the premier avant-garde
saxophonist, appearing in solo concert in London in 1995, duet
with Terry Adams in 1997 in Canada, and featured in articles in
"JazzTimes" (12/02), "Signal to Noise" Magazine,
and innumerable other music magazines and radio and TV interviews.
He is frequently called upon to give master classes, lectures,
and demonstrations of Sun Ra's musical precepts, and he Keeps
himself accessible to all who have an interest in Sun Ra's legacy.
Allen plays the alto saxophone, flute, clarinet, oboe, kora, and
E.V.I. (Electronic Valve Instrument).