RECENT: On Saturday, October 7, 2017, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra continued its 45th season of adventurous jazz at MIT’s Killian Hall with a concert of wide-ranging originals by music director Mark Harvey, including the premiere of his latest piece Nowheresville, and an updated version of his rollicking Swamp-a-Rama Suite (which was first performed on April 29, 2017, Day 100 of the Trump administration), including the Trumputin Tango, Fake News Blewz, and Perseverance Pavanne.
The show concluded with Mark Harvey’s No Walls, Aardvark’s anthem of inclusivity and hope. The piece was inspired by Duke Ellington’s belief in moving beyond category in art and life, expressed in his pithy question: Did God Ever Make a Wall? The piece, written in 2007 as a tribute to Doctors Without Borders, continues to resonate today as Aardvark’s anthem of inclusivity and hope.
Mark Harvey has been composing music on socio-political themes, and performing/recording it with The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, for several decades. Suites include Scamarama (inspired by the Iran Contra debacle), American Agonistes (for the Second Iraq War), Blood on the Sun/New Moon Rising, (for 9/11) and Commemoration (Boston 2013) for the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy.
Swamp-a-Rama’s premiere coincided with the culmination of the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. The pieces cast a satirical, perhaps sardonic, look at goings-on in our politics and culture. The suite was introduced by a reading from Walt Whitman’s jeremiad written in post-Reconstruction America entitled Democratic Vistas. Excoriating the corruption that he observed everywhere, this essay could have been written today and is an apt cautionary tale for our present situation.