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Jazz Review Allen's sonic boom shakes the Vortex

Marshall Allen and the Double Spiral Infinity Quartet
The Vortex, London

AT 93, Marshall Allen is one of the oldest musicians still regularly touring and playing live. A survivor of the Sun Ra Arkestra, who played with the Saturnian maestro for more than four decades, he landed at the Vortex with his Double Spiral Infinity Quartet.

Drummer Avreeal Ra, bassist Kash Killion and pianist Ka are joined on the night by two of London's best and most outrageous free jazzmen, electronics keyboard wizard Pat Thomas and vibraphonist Orphy Robinson, whose roots are in Antigua and Jamaica respectively.

With such a musical amalgam, the sounds are a unique union of US, England and the Caribbean and they begin with Ra's huge volley of drums and Killion's bass plunging earthwards like a great drill as he plucks his strings like an inconsolable giant bee.

Robinson's mallets hit his vibes with the sounds of muted electric bells and Ka strikes her keys like another battery of drums, while Thomas's computerised electronic undergrowth sizzles.

The second piece, revisiting Sun Ra, has Killion slapping his bass and singing: “We'll travel there/We'll travel there/Without a care/It has to be tomorrow,” and the certainty of his bow makes his strings howl like a distressed urban fox.

As Allen's nonagenarian breath powers into his horn, switching to melodica within the onrush of collective sound, you marvel that this is the man who travelled the sonic spaceways with Sun Ra for all those years, who still blows like fury with his compatriots and the two black Londoners beside him.

How the music travels, fuses and unifies in the Vortex's crepuscular light.


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