American Agonistes

American Agonistes

by The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra
     
 
They say tragedies bring out the best in people. In the case of Mark Harvey's Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, it might just be true. American Agonistes is an album of programmatic music inspired by 9/11 and the events that unfolded in its wake. It is also arguably the band's best album to date and certainly its most musically

Overview

They say tragedies bring out the best in people. In the case of Mark Harvey's Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, it might just be true. American Agonistes is an album of programmatic music inspired by 9/11 and the events that unfolded in its wake. It is also arguably the band's best album to date and certainly its most musically accessible. Through three works recorded between 2001 and 2007, Harvey offers a stunning hour of music that is, in turn, beautiful, poignant, and raucous. Avant-garde music always goes down better if there is a storyline involved. For neophytes, there is nothing like a picture or other direct tie to something known to make sense of the unknown (free improvisation, abstract musical gestures, etc.). In that regard, American Agonistes is an excellent place to start, but even avant-garde jazz connoisseurs will enjoy the raw emotion and refinement found in these pieces. First up is the diptych "Blood on the Sun/New Moon Rising," premiered and recorded only a week after the attack on the World Trade Center. Surely composed in haste, while the event was the event, this piece draws a graphic aural picture of the whole scene: the plane crashes, the crumbling towers, the desolation. A bit crude in the writing and delivery, it is nonetheless very poignant. "Fallen Truth" is a longer and much more developed piece in four movements, about the "politics of deception" that evolved from the 9/11 terrorist attack. Movement titles like "Big Oil Tango" and "Theocracy in America" should tell you two things already: on what side of the interpretive fence Harvey stands (the left side, that's right), and that this is not cheerful music. There is a lot going on here, big-band styles (swing, tango) alternating with contemporary music bits, angst-driven improvisation, and bleak dirges. Concluding the set, "Sounding Peace" offers a meager four minutes of low-register balladry, adding a hopeful yet somewhat somber (or is that realistic?) note. Programmatic music can be tacky -- sometimes it can feel like a first reader's book for the newcomer to contemporary music -- but American Agonistes is definitely not. This album drips with honesty, intelligence, sound design, and art. Wow, it reads like a list of everything the Bush administration has been lacking, doesn't it?

Product Details

Release Date:
06/17/2008
Label:
Leo Records Uk
UPC:
5024792050826
catalogNumber:
508
Rank:
188689

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Aardvark Jazz Orchestra   Primary Artist
Peter H. Bloom   Flute,Bass Flute,Piccolo,Alto Saxophone,Group Member
Bill Lowe   Tuba,Bass Trombone,Group Member
Richard Nelson   Guitar,Group Member
Bob Pilkington   Trombone,Group Member
Phil Scarff   Clarinet,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Group Member
Jeanne Snodgrass   Trumpet,Group Member
Arni Cheatham   Flute,Alto Saxophone,Group Member
Jerry Edwards   Electric Bass,Group Member
Craig Ellis   Percussion,Group Member
Jay Keyser   Trombone,Group Member
Harry Wellott   Drums,Group Member
Jeff Marsanskis   Trombone,Bass Trombone,Group Member
Taylor Ho Bynum   Trumpet,Group Member
John Funkhouser   String Bass,Group Member
Mark Messier   Clarinet,Baritone Saxophone,Group Member
Daniel Ian Smith   Flute,Tenor Saxophone,Group Member
Dan Zupan   Baritone Saxophone,Group Member

Technical Credits

David Broderick   Engineer
Kate Matson   Cover Art
Leo Feigin   Producer

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