Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, with Mark Harvey, 2020Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, with Mark Harvey, first row center.

UPDATED, Nov. 22: Composer and bandleader Mark Harvey of Arlington celebrated the release of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra’s latest CD, “Faces of Souls,” in a livestream interview with jazz writer and historian Bob Blumenthal held Sunday, Nov. 15.

If you missed the event, see it here >>

The 'Faces of Souls" CD is available here >>

“Faces of Souls” takes listeners on a captivating journey through seven of Harvey’s compositions, from elegies that draw on small-ensemble work, to sweeping orchestral masterpieces that weave complex tapestries of harmonies, rhythms, colors and textures.

The band traverses ravishing symphonic landscapes, pulsing grooves, lush abstractions, and meditative musings. Harvey’s cast of musicians, many with 30-plus years on the Aardvark bandstand, shine equally in consummate section work and inspired solos.

Drawn from historic and contemporary sources, “Faces of Souls” offers music of memory, struggle and hope – and speaks powerfully in the battle for our democratic ideals. The title track takes its inspiration from the Shaw memorial near the Boston State House, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ powerful sculpture of Col. Robert Gould Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts Regiment, who were among the first African-Americans to fight in the Civil War.

Harvey poses the question: What would these noble souls think of our current politics and culture? A companion piece, “Consecration,” also evokes the Shaw memorial.

Veterans of the 54th attended the statue’s unveiling in 1897, facing the bronze relief depicting their younger selves marching to the front. Saint-Gaudens, moved by the scene, wrote, “It was a consecration.” 

Social justice

The other five pieces expand on the album’s themes of social justice and democratic values: “Of the People,” an allusion to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; “Sisyphus,” for the perennial struggle toward progress; “Meltdown,” conveying the turmoil and exhaustion of our current zeitgeist; “Greta,”for the young, Swedish climate activist; and “Lament for the City,” for the late Kip Tiernan, a tireless advocate for the dispossessed in Boston.

Founded in 1973, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra has premiered more than 180 works, and has released 16 CDs to international acclaim. Praised for “exuberance, imagination and sheer brio” (Jazz Review, UK), the band has been called “stunningly beautiful and adventurous,” (The New York City Jazz Record), “captivating” (Jazz Improv) and “one of the best jazz ensembles in the world” (Jazz Podium, Germany).  Aardvark guest artists have included such notables as Sheila Jordan, Jaki Byard, Ricky Ford, Geri Allen, Jimmy Giuffre, Matt Savage and Dominique Eade. 

Founder and music director Mark Harvey, winner of the 2019 Roy Haynes Award, has performed as trumpeter with jazz greats Claudio Roditi, Gil Evans, Howard McGhee, Kenny Dorham, Sam Rivers and others, and has recorded with George Russell and Baird Hersey.  Among his 200 works are pieces written for and premiered with jazz legends Joe Lovano, Sheila Jordan, Steve Turre, Jimmy Giuffre, and Ran Blake.  Dr. Harvey teaches jazz studies at MIT.

This news announcement was published Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, and updated Nov. 22.