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CD release: A Rite for All Souls, long-lost recording by trail-blazing Mark Harvey Group
(Published: July 12, 2020)

The Mark Harvey Group's A Rite for All Souls (available July 17, 2020 via Americas Musicworks) is a newly discovered recording of a 1971 concert by the trail-blazing ensemble. The recording reaches across nearly 50 years from a time of great social turbulence in the US to deliver a message of protest, compassion, and healing that resonates today. The CD has been called "extraordinary" (New York City Jazz Record), "a potent thing to behold," (AllAboutJazz), and "a beautiful historical and musical document" (MusicZoom - Italy)

Trumpeter, composer and bandleader Mark Harvey has been an uncompromising explorer of new sonic territories for decades. He performed at the Knitting Factory, the Village Gate, the Public Theater, Roulette, the Berlin Jazz Festival, the Baja State Theater (Mexico), and other venues; and shared the stage with Jaki Byard, Geri Allen, Ricky Ford, and other luminaries. Among Harvey's 200 works are pieces written for and premiered with jazz legends Joe Lovano, Sheila Jordan, Steve Turre, Jimmy Giuffre, and Ran Blake. Harvey is founder and music director of the internationally acclaimed Aardvark Jazz Orchestra (48th season).

His early quartet, The Mark Harvey Group, featuring woodwind player Peter H. Bloom and percussionists Craig Ellis and Michael Standish, takes listeners on an epic journey of discovery in A Rite for All Souls. The fully improvised 90-minute concert encompasses serenity and turmoil, ravishing sounds and silence, poetry and melody. Harvey discovered the reel-to-reel tapes in his basement, and when he and Bloom listened to them for the first time in five decades, "We knew this was something special that deserved to be heard," Harvey says. The exquisite monaural recording has been digitally remastered for release in a 2-CD set, available at http://www.americasmusicw...

A Rite for All Souls was performed October 31, 1971, at Boston's Old West Church, where Harvey, a Methodist minister, was pursuing a jazz ministry modeled on the work of his mentor John Garcia Gensel at Saint Peter's in Manhattan.

The Mark Harvey Group was mourning, protesting, and commemorating the tragic losses of the Vietnam War, and the lives lost or threatened by poverty, discrimination, and inequality. Their music was a celebration and meditation, honoring souls departed and souls surviving during that turbulent time in American culture. "Today, we find ourselves in another dark and tumultuous time," says Harvey. "A Rite for All Souls speaks for all of us, as we share sorrow, anguish and compassion. Then, as now, we search for spiritual healing and the rediscovery of a common humanity."

A Rite for All Souls is a powerful statement of the group's aesthetic vision, captured in the phrase "aural theatre." Lit by candles, the chancel of the Old West Church (the concert "stage") was crowded with exotic percussion instruments and "found" sound-making devices, arranged in sculptural form. Two enormous tarot cards-The Tower and The Moon-were positioned on stage. "We thought of our performance space as a conceptual installation," Peter H. Bloom says. As the concert unfolded, the musicians moved throughout the space. At one point, they left the room, and returned wearing monk's robes and playing organ pipes.

As always, the group performed without score or musical notation. Bloom says, "When it came to A Rite for All Souls, our intention was to explore particular artistic, social and spiritual territory. We chose four poems to recite as landmarks during the performance. But there weren't specific cues, so it all developed very organically."

Peter H. Bloom's playing on A Rite for All Souls has been called "full-throated and enfolding" (New York City Jazz Record). "His expansive creativity on a range of saxophones is one of the delights of this recording" (AllAboutJazz.com). Bloom has performed widely across multiple genres in a career spanning five decades. He has performed with Mark Harvey since 1969 and been a member of The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1976. In addition, he is a founding member of the jazz and tap ensemble, the Modernistics, has played with FiLmprov since its creation in 1996, and has led his own jazz groups for decades. Jazz Improv praised his "exquisite melody...the improvisations growing organically out of the theme." As a recitalist and chamber musician, Bloom has toured the world with Ensemble Aubade, Fortunato Ensemble, Ensemble Chaconne, the Henning Ensemble, and other groups. Composers such as Elliott Schwartz, Richard Cornell, Elizabeth Vercoe, Narong Prangcharoen, Edward Jacobs, Karl Henning, Pamela Marshall, and Richard Nelson have written for him. His discography includes 47 recordings on labels including Sony Classical, Navona, Dorian, Leo Records, 9Winds, and many others.

The Mark Harvey Group creates the dramatic arc of the performance through a dialectic between group and individual passages, the ebbing and flowing in the dynamics and density of the music, and the interplay of timbres, rhythm, and melody. You can hear the operatic tension on the second disc as the muted dynamics and textures of the group set up Ellis to read his poem, "Napalm: Rice Paper." A sorrowful, compassionate response by Bloom on soprano and Harvey on French horn follows, until the accumulated outrage of the poem seems to erupt in a lengthy, powerful percussion duet.

Throughout the performance, percussionists Craig Ellis and Michael Standish collaborate with finesse. From Ellis, we hear range and depth: propulsive grooves, sonic explosions, and subtle use of space. Standish's concise and nuanced work on small percussion instruments provides elegant punctuations, ever-suited to the moment. "Michael invariably delivered le son juste," Bloom observes.

More Information: http://www.americasmusicworks.com/mark-harvey-group.html

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