Performing artists from MIT's faculty, staff and student body are featured in a new CD just released by lecturer Mark Harvey and his Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.
Vocal soloist Pamela Wood (senior lecturer in music), trombonist Jay Keyser (the Peter de Florez Professor Emeritus in linguistics and philosophy and special assistant to the chancellor), tap dancer Thomas DeFrantz (associate professor of theater arts), and the MIT Chamber Chorus join Aardvark on "Duke Ellington/Sacred Music." The concert, which was narrated by Ayida Mthembu (associate dean for counseling and support services), was recorded live in Kresge Auditorium in April 1999 by WGBH-FM for broadcast on Ellington's 100th birthday.
"There is a sense in which all of Ellington's music is sacred," said Harvey, a United Methodist minister who has been dubbed "Boston's own jazz priest" because of his efforts to bring jazz into churches and to perform for charitable causes. "Transcendence and social justice were two main principles of [Ellington's] philosophy."
Harvey's arrangements offer some variations and alterations from Ellington's originals, following his example as an inveterate reviser.
Celebrating its 30th season, Aardvark is also releasing a concurrent CD, "Bethlehem Counterpoint," featuring jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan in a performance of the title track, an original Christmas cantata by Harvey. Other cuts include a gospel/blues rendition of "Silent Night," a polyrhythmic "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella" and the Afro-jazz smoker "Benedictus" from Harvey's jazz mass.
Aardvark's 30th annual Christmas concert on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Street Church in Boston will feature selections from both CDs. Since Aardvark's first Christmas concert in 1973, which benefited the Chelsea Fire Fund, the group has used this annual event to raise funds for a deserving cause. This year, admission ($15 or $10 students and seniors) will support the Arlington Street Church Friday Night Supper Program.
For more information, call (617) 491-1042.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 11, 2002.