The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra (Mark Harvey, director) will open its historic 47th season with a Duke Ellington Celebration, including tuneful classics and joyful sacred music featuring the First Parish of Concord choir, directed by Elizabeth Norton, with Nikki Turpin, narrator. The concert will be held Sunday, September 22 at 7:00 pm at First Parish Church of Concord MA. The program is sponsored by the Music Ministry of First Parish in collaboration with The Robbins House. Aardvark has been called “stunningly beautiful” (New York City Jazz Record), “spellbinding” (The Boston Globe) and “one of the best jazz ensembles in the world” (Jazz Podium, Germany). The band has been praised for “lush sonorities and a saxophonic blend worthy of Ellington’s finest reed sections” (JazzTimes).
The concert will honor Duke Ellington (1899-1974) in his 120th birthday year with a program celebrating joy, justice, and love – themes that were important for Ellington throughout his life. Although not a religious event, the program embraces the tenets of Christianity in celebrating social justice, equality and inclusiveness. The Reverend Dr Mark Harvey, Aardvark’s founder and music director is a retired Methodist minister, who has written compositions on themes of spirituality, peace and justice and led his orchestra in concerts for these causes for 50 years. The September 22 concert will feature music from Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, including Heaven and New World A-Comin’ which Duke described as “a place where there would be no war, no greed, no categorization, and where love would be unconditional.” The First Parish choir will join Aardvark in two sacred works: the ebullient David Danced before the Lord, and It’s Freedom, a powerful expression of Civil-Rights-era fervor with resonance for today.
The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra performs widely, has premiered more than 175 works for jazz orchestra, and has released 15 CDs, including 9 discs on Leo Records and a recording of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music on the Aardmuse label. Aardvark guests have included Sheila Jordan, Ricky Ford, Geri Allen, Jaki Byard, Jimmy Giuffre and other luminaries. The band has performed Ellington concerts for more than three decades, including an Ellington Centennial Concert in 1999 at MIT’s mainstage Kresge Auditorium. Mark Harvey has transcribed many Ducal works, and has written and lectured about Ellington for more than 25 years.
Aardvark is: Arni Cheatham, Peter H. Bloom, Phil Scarff, Chris Rakowski, Dan Zupan/saxes and woodwinds; K.C. Dunbar, Jeanne Snodgrass/trumpets; David Harris, Jay Keyser/trombones; Jeff Marsanskis, Bill Lowe/bass trombones, tuba; John Funkhouser/piano; Rick McLaughlin/string bass; Harry Wellott/drums; Jerry Edwards and Grace Hughes, vocalists; and Mark Harvey, arranger/music director. The orchestra is managed by Americas Musicworks, Rebecca DeLamotte, director, telephone 617 776 8778