Sun Ra Arkestra Credit: Theo Wargo

Afrofuturist big-band leader Sun Ra left the planet 24 years ago, but his legacy has never been in better shape. Many of his classic sides have been remastered and reissued on vinyl, CD, and file formats, and the Sun Ra Arkestra, which plays his tunes in classic and alternate arrangements, still tours regularly. The celestially attired Arkestra is currently led by 93-year-old Marshall Allen, who’s been a member of the band since it first formed in Chicago in the 1950s. If anyone could make a case for the notion that age is a figment of the mind, it’s Allen; onstage he’s a joyous visual focus, alternately conducting and playing with the band. He’s also a fiery musical force, cutting through the Arkestra’s brass polyphony and space-themed chants with short, serrated bursts on his saxophone and persuasively filling in for Ra’s synthesizer with his EVI (electronic valve instrument). And he’s an indefatigable ambassador for Ra’s cosmic aesthetic, even when he’s playing outside of the Arkestra. He appears on a delightful new album by the Heliosonic Tonetet, an all-star ensemble co-led by multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson. Recorded in 2015, Heliosonic Toneways Volume 1 (ScienSonic Laboratories) revisits the abstract, percussion-heavy chamber music that Ra explored fifty years earlier on two volumes of The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (E.S.P.). The Arkestra will play early and late shows on each of the last two nights of the year.   v