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An Afrofuturist Classic from 1974, With Sun Ra in Oakland

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A still from 'Sun Ra: Space is the Place.'

Every once in a while, we discover a KQED connection that blows our minds. The famous awkward Bob Dylan press conference from Don’t Look Back? That was filmed by KQED’s cameras. Pink Floyd’s widely bootlegged 1970 session? Also filmed by KQED.

In 1974, a producer from KQED named Jim Newman spent time on the streets of Oakland following around a jazz musician who believed he was from Saturn. The result, Sun Ra: Space is the Place, is an afrofuturist classic and a touchstone of the jazz giant’s career. The ideas put forth about a utopia for black people in outer space are ahead of their time, the music is a hybrid of big-band tradition and propulsive avant-garde discovery—and of course, the outfits are incredible.

Sun Ra himself left the planet in 1993. But this week, the Sun Ra Arkestra led by longtime saxophonist Marshall Allen performs live along with a screening of Sun Ra: Space is the Place at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco. That’s on July 18 and 20. After two nights with the film, the floor seats are removed for a dance party with the Arkestra on July 20 and 21.

No matter how you experience this music, you won’t be the same afterward.


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