Marshall Allen

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Marshall Allen
Marshall Allen in 2019
Marshall Allen in 2019
Background information
Birth nameMarshall Belford Allen
Born (1924-05-25) May 25, 1924 (age 99)
Louisville, Kentucky, US
Instrument(s)Saxophone, flute, oboe, piccolo, EWI

Marshall Belford Allen (born May 25, 1924)[1] is an American free jazz and avant-garde jazz alto saxophone player.[2] He also performs on flute, oboe, piccolo, and EWI (an electronic valve instrument made by Steiner, Crumar company).

Allen is best known for his work with Sun Ra, having recorded and performed mostly in this context since the late 1950s, and having led The Sun Ra Arkestra since 1993, after Sun Ra's death. Critic Jason Ankeny[3] describes Marshall as "one of the most distinctive and original saxophonists of the postwar era."


Marshall Allen was born in Louisville, Kentucky, United States.[1]

During the Second World War he enlisted in the 92nd Infantry Division and was stationed in France.[4] Allen studied alto saxophone in Paris and played in Europe with Art Simmons and James Moody.[1]

He is best known for his mastery of explosive, jarring, chaotic sound effects on the alto saxophone. Some have referred to this as a "pyrotechnic" playing style.[5] He has said that he "wanted to play on a broader sound basis rather than on chords" (1971 interview with Tam Fiofori)[6]). The opportunity came through his long association with Sun Ra, with whom he performed almost exclusively from 1958 to Ra's death in 1993, although he did record outside The Sun Ra Arkestra, with Paul Bley's group in 1964 and Olatunji's group during the mid-1960s.[1] Critic Scott Yanow has described Allen's playing as "Johnny Hodges from another dimension".

Since Sun Ra died, Allen has led the Arkestra, and has recorded two albums as their bandleader. In May 2004, Allen celebrated his 80th birthday on stage with the Arkestra, as part of their performance at the Ninth Vision Festival in New York City. Allen gave other performances on his birthday in 2008 at Sullivan Hall and at Iridium Jazz Club in 2018, both in New York City.

Allen often appeared in New York-area collaborations with bassist Henry Grimes, and has also participated in the "Innerzone Orchestra" together with Francisco Mora Catlett, Carl Craig and others in an appreciation of Sun Ra's music.

In 2022, a building at 5626 Morton Street known as the Arkestral Institute of Sun Ra was listed as a historic landmark in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Allen began living there in 1968.[7][8]


Allen in 2005, playing a Steiner EVI
Marshall Allen at the Moers Festival 2019

For Recordings With Sun Ra See: Sun Ra

As leader[edit]

As co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Terry Adams
  • Terrible (New World Records, 1995)
With Paul Bley
With Tyrone Hill
  • Out of the Box (CIMP, 1998)
With Medeski, Martin and Wood
With The Muffins and Knoel Scott
  • Loveletter #2 The Ra Sessions (Hobart Films & Records, 2005)
With the Odean Pope Trio
  • In This Moment (CIMP, 2016)
With Alan Silva
With Dave Soldier
  • The Eighth Hour of Amduat (Mulatta Records, 2016)
With Surrender to the Air
With Hawk Tubley & The Airtight Chiefs
  • Cooking With Dynamite! (2011)


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. pp. 9. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
  3. ^ Jason Ankeny, "Marshall Allen biography", AllMusic.
  4. ^ "Marshall Allen". Retrieved 2007-10-06.
  5. ^ "A Sideman In The Limelight: Marshall Allen". 2009. Retrieved 2023-01-23.
  6. ^ Cited in Wilmer, Val (1977). As Serious as Your Life. Quartet. ISBN 0-7043-3164-0.
  7. ^ "Sun Ra House in Philadelphia Is Now a Historic Landmark". Pitchfork. May 16, 2022.
  8. ^ "Encounters at The Mothership brings expansive improv to West Philly". WXPN. February 6, 2019.

External links[edit]