Aardvark Jazz Orchestra will present its 50th Christmas concert


Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, with Mark Harvey, front row center.

UPDATE October 2: The Aardvark Jazz Orchestraled by Mark Harvey of Arlington, continues its 50th season on Saturday, December 10, with its annual Christmas concert at the Alliance Church in Boston, the venue where Aardvark held its first concert, on December 23, 1973.

This Boston holiday tradition will feature jazz-infused Christmas carols, soulful spirituals and Harvey originals, including his Afro-Jazz Benedictus and energetic arrangement of Let all mortal flesh be silenta staple of Christmas concerts since 1973.

Tickets are $20 with proceeds going to support the Poor People’s United Fund.

The concert, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for MIT’s Main Stage Kresge Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.

Selections will include Harvey’s faces of souls and that of Ellington It’s freedom. A highlight will be the premiere of Harvey’s latest work, American agonistschanneling the moods of grief and outrage so characteristic of our times.

The October 1 concert was presented by MIT Music & Theater Arts to honor Harvey’s long teaching career at MIT. Dr. Harvey recently retired after 40 years of service to the faculty of music.

The venue is well suited for the kick off of Aardvark’s 50th season, as Kresge has hosted Aardvark’s annual spring concerts for over 30 years, hosting notable Aardvark events such as the appearance in 1986 with guest artist Jaki Byard, the 1999 Duke Ellington Centennial and the 2019. concert with guest artist Ricky Ford.


Founded in 1973, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra is one of the oldest major jazz ensembles in the world. Explaining the band’s longevity, Harvey said in a press release: “Aardvark has been blessed with a stable and dedicated staff, many of whom have 30 and 40 years of service or more. We all share a vision of exploring new approaches while honoring jazz tradition. My own compositions offer great freedom of improvisation to musicians, allowing them to experiment and explore new concepts together. The shared vision and ever-evolving collective creativity kept us all engaged and challenged. »

Aardvark is eclectic, with concerts spanning Harvey’s own exploratory compositions, jazz and blues spectra, world music and American classical traditions from Billings to Gottschalk to Ives and beyond. At the heart of the repertoire are Harvey’s original works, over 200 compositions, which he describes as “a blend of traditional and experimental jazz approaches with modern classical ‘new music’ to produce a ‘Third Stream’ sensibility up to date “.

He goes on to say, “My songwriting style has been greatly influenced by the musicians, modeled after Duke Ellington, with pieces evolving to showcase various strengths and specialties of the extraordinary Aardvark musicians.” Moreover, he notes, “the compositions were influenced by the instruments available, from our beginnings as a marching band, to later editions with multi-percussionists, to our current setup with a saxophone section which incorporates over a dozen wind doubles, all of which inspire me to compose a variety of sound mixes, colors and textures.

The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra has performed in concert halls, colleges and universities, festivals, jazz clubs and major cultural institutions. Guest artists have included jazz luminaries Sheila Jordan, Jaki Byard, Ricky Ford, Jimmy Giuffre, Geri Allen, Jay Clayton, Dominique Eade, Vinny Golia, Paul Lovens, Rajesh Mehta, Lewis Porter and Walter Thompson. The group has released 16 CDs, including 10 discs on Leo Records, one of the world’s leading adventurous music labels.

Harvey has performed in the United States, Mexico and Europe; recorded with George Russell (Blue Note) and Baird Hersey (Arista/Novus) and appeared with Gil Evans, Claudio Roditi, Howard McGhee, Sam Rivers, Kenny Dorham and others. In 2019, Jazz Boston awarded Harvey the Roy Haynes Award for “outstanding contributions to jazz and the jazz community”.

In 2015 Harvey was named a Boston Jazz Hero by the National Jazz Journalists Association. Commissions have featured such notables as Joe Lovano, Steve Turre, Herb Pomeroy and Ran Blake. Harvey, a retired Methodist pastor, is a lecturer in music emeritus at MIT, where he taught jazz for 40 years.

Aardvark is composed of Arni Cheatham, Allan Chase, Peter H. Bloom, Phil Scarff, Chris Rakowski, Dan Zupan/saxes and woodwinds; KC Dunbar, Jeanne Snodgrass/trumpets; Bob Pilkington, Jay Keyser/Trombones; Bill Lowe/bass trombone, tuba; Rob Bethel/cello; Richard Nelson/guitar; Bruno Raberg/double bass; Harry Wellott/drums; Grace Hughes/singer; Mark Harvey/piano, musical director.

This The news announcement was posted on Friday, September 16, 2021, based on information contained in a press release from Rebecca DeLamotte. Your Arlington volunteer, Kim Haase, prepared it for publication. It was updated on October 2.

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Henry R. Wright