Marshall Allen's Muse
AAJ: And that dictates what's going to be played, I'm sure.
MA: I'm always open for new people to come this way. I say 'come on in' and fill up their desire to do it, and it's wonderful that way. I've got a band of people who want to be in the band, and I didn't have to go out and recruit any of them. Everybody knows the kind of money and living they make, and they still want to be in it - they've just got to do other things to make money, too. As long as we keep the rent going'!
AAJ: You've done some things on your own recently, too, apart from the Arkestra.
MA: That's right, I put them together and use them well. Take care of things properly to survive and produce music that's of worth. I've played jobs where there was no money - we played in a coffeehouse for a good hot meal and coffee, and that was better than sitting at home with no money, no coffee, and no meal! It's part of the thing; you don't always make money, but you produce good jobs and do your best. There are still days where we don't make money; you've got to have your disses, and you can't make money all the time.
AAJ: If it were about that, you'd be a different band anyway. But is there anything else you'd like to talk about?
MA: The general thing that I'm doing is work, work, work and prepare to do the best that I can do. Keep the band intact, keep things in order, and keep the music flowing. That's a lifetime job, and it's not so difficult - these are the simplicities. People aren't all that complicated about everything; that's why you have all these different kinds of music. Keep it very simple and with feeling and the things that people need, you know. I say, well, I can do the same thing. I take what I've got, keep it going, and do some more on my own. I'll make a songbook with as many songs as the creator gives me the spirit to write. I just keep writing and they keep coming out. I've always got a challenge and I'm always learning. I never know so much as I think I know.
AAJ: I think that's the best bandleader philosophy that I've ever heard.
MA: Simplicity, it's for real and it's me [laughing].
AAJ: Just keep learning and keep growing'
MA: Keep trying and do something yourself. I had others doing it, and I have to do it myself now. I welcome anybody's arrangements or anybody's songs that they want to put in the band, you know, and play that too. That's the idea I was always taught - sound, sight, feeling, and all these things you try to use colors, lights, like they do in big show bands to project and present to the people. That's all part of the music, you can understand it with certain costumes or lighting, and it brings what you're doing out. Show bands play everything, with dancing and all the things that people do.
AAJ: It's the whole experience, not just one facet.
MA: You have nice lighting and costumes to present the personality of the musician and the music.
AAJ: So the costumes are designed with the specific individual in mind, right?
MA: Right, mostly, and there is the whole project of color schemes, which Sun Ra used to do. You know, getting the right vibrations with the right costumes.
AAJ: When did that exactly come into use?
MA: We used to get costumes from the opera house in Chicago, William Tell and all that [laughing], nice colors and everything. We used to redo the material a bit and they were real nice. Then we also had bowties and red jackets, blue jackets, and all that stuff. We went from the original standard way you see musicians to the costumes, and we tried an African thing, moving on and on like that until we get something that's us. You get a better picture of what the musicians are doing [through dress].
There's so much stuff and you get so many directions with different people, but this is part of what I'm doing.
Visit Marshall Allen on the web at www.elrarecords.com .
Darek Pietak (color)
Frank Schindelbeck (black & white)