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Aardvark Jazz Orchestra: Modern Harmonies and Traditional Eloquence

Aardvarks.jpgJazz lovers were treated to sophisticated rhythms and urban melodies when Eastern hosted the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra on Nov.1l in Shafer Auditorium. The orchestra, a 41-year project committed to preserving the legacy of such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, simultaneously pushes the genre forward with energetic explorations of the musical tradition's limits.

Assembled in 1972 by Mark Harvey, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra has produced 11 albums, and has conducted numerous world tours.  The orchestra's website says it has "premiered more than 130 works for jazz orchestra."  From original compositions to modern renditions of classics by Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington or Miles Davis, the Orchestra has kept jazz alive for some two generations.

The show began with three original compositions by Harvey. The first, and perhaps most ambitious of these was titled, "Three B's and a Bop," which was, in Harvey's own words, "a more formalized version of the type of jazz music that was made up on the spot in the 1930s."

The performance also featured a new song, "Merry Go Round," by Harvey that showcased Eastern's Concert Chorale Ensemble and the Eastern Thread City Jazz Ensemble. As the concert continued, the songs became increasingly sophisticated in their delivery of sound. This became abundantly clear as the Orchestra eased into a sleek modern rendition of Charles Mingus's 1959 classic "[Goodbye] Pork Pie Hat," which had been dedicated to Mingus's friend and fellow jazz legend Lester Young.

The performance's next song, a rendition of a Duke Ellington 1957 hit titled "Such Sweet Thunder," was by far the most memorable due to its use of what Harvey described as "tone parallels" to create a "slinky, seductive feeling." Originally performed as part of a suite, where each song represented a different character from Shakespeare's plays, "Such Sweet Thunder" flowed smoothly from start to finish from each instrument, enlightening the ears of modern listeners to the glory of the late great Duke.
(Submitted by student Zachary Marotte to News Flash)

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