Ottawa's Rake-star Arkestra played its first full concert in years on February 28, with a full band and a quiver-full of music written by their inspiration – the idiosyncratic jazz genius, Sun Ra.

The show attracted an enthusiastic audience to Mugshots: both long-time jazz fans, and a 20-something crowd, who appeared to be enjoying the groove, the interplay, and the high energy.

Rake-star - a lot of music. They're back at Mugshots on Saturday, March 28. ©2015 Brett Delmage
Rake-star - a lot of music. They're back at Mugshots on Saturday, March 28. ©2015 Brett Delmage
After a six-year hiatus, the Arkestra played an improvised show in January. But this was the first show with all the members present and with their classic repertoire. On the bottom end was Don Cummings' Hammond organ, Mike Essoudry's and Jamie Gullikson's drumsets, and David Broscoe's and John Sobol's baritone saxes. Soaring over them were Rob Frayne on tenor sax and synthesizer, Linsey Wellman on alto sax and flute, and Rory Magill and xylophone and assorted percussion – plus Broscoe and Sobol on other saxes, and Essoudry on clarinet. And Scott Warren added extra touches with pre-recorded voice clips and unexpected sounds, plus percussion.

The nine-piece band spilled off the stage into the audience. And the room, with its massive stone walls and pillars and low, arched ceiling, added another dimension, amplifying and resonating to the music.

Sun Ra believed in the power of spectacle as a counterpoint to his music, with costumes, headdresses, and dancers. The band dressed up to that ideal, in costumes and inventive hats, including Broscoe's sculptured headdress with interior lights. The visual  display grabbed the audience's attention, but so did the music, which combined a free jazz sensibility with traditional jazz rhythms, and was approachable to all.

Partway through the show, vocalist Gaby Warren heard the intro to "Somewhere In Space", and was inspired to repeat his falsetto wordless solo from Rake-star's 2004 CD.

Rake-star is back at Mugshots tonight (March 28) for another exploration of Sun Ra's gigantic repertoire.

    – Alayne McGregor

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All photos © Brett Delmage, 2015
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