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Watch a Sun Ra Arkestra concert, in honor of Marshall Allen at 100

Marshall Allen has made 100 trips around the sun: his centennial falls on May 25, 2024. For eight of those ten decades, he’s been traveling the spaceways with the Sun Ra Arkestra — originally as a band member in Chicago, and then as its intrepid leader in Philadelphia, a role he’s inhabited with style for nearly 30 years.

True to form, Allen is ushering in his centennial onstage, leading the Arkestra at Union Transfer. In the same celebratory spirit, WRTI is honored to share this concert video from a couple of years ago, when he was on the cusp of 98.

Throughout this vibrant performance at, the maestro channels Sun Ra’s legacy in a program encompassing all that is synonymous with the Arkestra. Their shiny uniforms captivate the eye, a classic repertoire is rendered anew, and the element of dance gives the music a human form.

Allen’s own earthly journey began in Louisville, Ky., and continued through his wartime service in France before he enlisted with the Arkestra. He has long resided in the circa-1800 Germantown rowhouse known as the Arkestral Institute of Sun Ra — a cultural landmark officially listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. As our footage shows, Allen and the band are still making history, in Philly, around the globe and throughout our solar system.

J. Michael Harrison’s first radio show, WPEB’s “Is That Jazz” launched in June of 1993. In 1994 he began volunteering with WRTI as a production assistant. In 1996, J. Michael debuted his own program, The Bridge, which continues to air Friday evenings on WRTI.