The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, led by pianist, trumpeter, composer and music director Mark Harvey, celebrates its sixth album for Leo Records. Recorded at various venues in the Boston, MA, area, the orchestra's empirical gait surges forward, as no two compositions are distinctly alike. Variety is always an underlying factor within the band's manifesto; from military orchestral progressions to avant-garde expressionism and a few nods to convention, the musicians tie quite a few genres and stylizations into a broad soundstage.
The diverse "Rascals & Scoundrels" spans John Cage-like abstractions, minimalism and asymmetrical movements, offset by interweaving horns, mellifluously executed mid-tempo swing vamps and jagged loops. Here, the band touches upon numerous concentration points. Harvey also allows copious room for the soloists to expand and renew mini-themes. Featuring argumentative type exchanges and shifting emotive sentiment, the artists raise the pitch during the bridge and even toss in a few traditional big band choruses amid bluesy inflections. But Harvey finalizes the proceedings in a whisper via his dainty piano phrasings. The orchestra's multidimensional and far-reaching mode of operations is glaringly communicated on "Rascals & Scoundrels"and throughout the program.
Personnel: Mark Harvey: music director, conductor, trumpet, piano; Arni Cheatham: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone and flute; Peter Bloom: alto saxophone, flute and piccolo; Phil Scarff: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and clarinet; Dan Zupan: baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; K.C. Dunbar: trumpet; Jeanne Snodgrass: trumpet; Jay Keyser: trombone; Ethan Fenn: trombone; Bill Lowe: bass trombone and tuba; Richard Nelson: guitar; John Funkhouser: bass; Victor Belanger: bass; Harry Wellott: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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