Friday, October 16, 2020

The Mark Harvey Group, A Rite for All Souls, Aural Theatre

Trumpeter, bandleader, composer and Jazz activist Mark Harvey has been a founding presence on the Boston Avant Jazz scene for more than 50 years. I first discovered his playing in Boston when he was a member of Baird Hersey's potent Year of the Ear big band. But of course that was but one tip of the iceberg of his music making. His Aardvark Orchestra big band has been a critically acclaimed local force since 1973 in both concert and recordings over the years.

Happily there has been a release lately of something slightly earlier, an October 1971 in-concert recording of a quartet, the Mark Harvey Group and their Aural Theatre work, A Rite for All Souls (Americas Musicworks AM CD 1596 1596 2-CDs). It is a long, freely conceived improvisational work punctuated by recitations of poetic epigramatic texts by Gary Snyder, William Butler Yeats, Jack Spicer and MHG percussionist Craig Ellis, poems which serve as prompts and reference points for the improvisations that form the principal body of the music.

The quartet consisted of Ellis and Michael Standish on percussion, Peter H. Bloom on woodwinds, and of course Mark Harvey on trumpet and other brasswinds.

The music has a kind of spirit-feel in part inspired by its performance in Boston's Old West Church. The overall trajectory of the performance is thoughtful, deliberate and freely open. It has a cohesive earnestness that Mark Harvey's improvisations have as a rule. All four improvisors clearly are listening to one another and respond somewhat introspectively with an inner fire that burns steadily and spaciously.

It is a fully absorbing and captivating concert well-captured in vibrant audio. There is a multitude of sound shades coming out of the various combinations and a marked sense of the long arc of sound developing unhurriedly. It might take a few listens before you fall in with the open subtlety of it all, but then there is a point where you I hope click into it like I did, and, well there you go. Very recommended. An important aspect of the Boston scene nicely captured.

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