FEATURES A great holiday tradition: 43rd annual Aardvark Jazz Orchestra Christmas concert | Jazz In The Key Of Light |Members connection: Win free tickets | Holiday concert picks |No-cost jazz events

JazzBoston & the Carter Post throw Mattapan's first holiday jazz party | Levi George is Dorchester's jazz hero | Support JazzBoston - it's about more than the music | Save the date: JazzBoston's Annual Members Appreciation Party

EDITOR Grace-Mary Burega, info@kindofpinkandpurple.com

Editor's POV: The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra continues a holiday tradition with its 43rd annual Christmas Concert
The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra
The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra

Throughout the next few months, JazzBoston will be highlighting local big bands. The first in our series is the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.

Continuing a Boston holiday tradition, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Duke Ellington's Sacred Music with its 43rd annual Christmas concert at the Emmanuel Church on December 12th.

The inaugural concert of the Aardvark Orchestra was in December 1973. Mark Harvey, founder and leader of the ensemble, started the orchestra for a benefit Christmas concert to support the Chelsea Fire Fund. Initially consisting of brass, a rhythm section and a gospel choir, the Aardvark Orchestra has expanded to include woodwinds, as well as a diverse programming book that includes everything from Harvey originals to Ellington favorites.

Throughout the history of the ensemble, Aardvark has been known for its interpretation of Ellington music. While studying at the Boston University School of Theology, Harvey was heard the Ellington Orchestra on several occasions, and was highly inspired by seeing the Second Sacred Concert firsthand at the Emmanuel Church in 1969. Twenty years later, Harvey worked closely with Mercer Ellington as a consulting producer when the Ellington Orchestra performed a Sacred Concert at Symphony Hall in 1988. Also, Harvey's mentor, Reverend John Garcia Gensel, minister to the jazz community of New York, inspired Ellington to write "The Shepherd Who Watches Over the Night Flock," for the Sacred Concerts.

For 43 years, the orchestra has varied its Christmas concert with a book of around 70 pieces ranging across five centuries of music related to the Christmas season. Aardvark has played everything from Christmas carols to Duke Ellington Sacred Music, and has even performed the complete Ellington Nutcracker Suite. For the past 25 years, the orchestra has often done one or two pieces from the Sacred music repertoire. However, with the 50th anniversary of Duke Ellington's Sacred Music concerts, Harvey wanted to focus on Sacred Music, with pieces such as "Come Sunday" and "Tell Me It's the Truth."

"The first Sacred concert was premiered in 1965 in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and Ellington was truly at his best in these famous churches," Harvey explains, "Since the 1930s Ellington was exploring religion in his music, and in 1943, he composed 'Come Sunday,' a key part of 'Black, Brown, and Beige,' which became the center-piece of his first Sacred concert."

Pieces to be included in this year's concert are Ellington's "Portrait of the Three Wise Men" from the Three Black Kings Suite, which Harvey heard for the first time while working with Mercer, along with "A Song for Christmas" by Billy Strayhorn. Also, several pieces from the Second Sacred Concert including "The Shepherd Who Watches Over the Night Flock" and "It's Freedom" will be on the program.

Harvey explains his programming: "The younger generation doesn't know all about Ellington. He wasn't just a swing-era composer - he composed for ballet, theater and for churches."

Harvey notes that while playing Ellington music the group is still quintessentially Aardvark: "We have our own particular sound from working and rehearsing for 43 years. This certain sound and style is especially suited for pieces such as 'Portrait of the Three Wise Men.'"

Each year the Aardvark Christmas concert benefits a different charity, with this year's proceeds going towards Community Works, a coalition of Boston-area service organizations working for education, health-care, housing, and social justice for communities in need. In the past, the orchestra has served organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, American Friends Service Committee, Rosie's Place, Pine Street Inn, and dozens more.

Ultimately Harvey wants, "the audience to take away the joyful expression of the music and of the season. I also hope that after hearing the concert people will be motivated to learn more about this music. We hope to spread this varied approach as far as we can."

Aardvark is: Arni Cheatham, Peter Bloom, Phil Scarff, Chris Rakowski, Dan Zupan, Dylan Sherry/saxophones & woodwinds; KC Dunbar, Jeanne Snodgrass/trumpets; Bob Pilkington, Jay Keyser, Jeff Marsanskis, Tom Plsek/trombones; Bill Lowe/bass trombone, tuba; Richard Nelson/guitar; John Funkhouser/string bass; Harry Wellott/drums; Grace Hughes, Jerry Edwards/vocalists: Mark Harvey/trumpet, music director.

Join the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra for its 43rd annual Christmas concert Saturday, December 12, 7:30 PM, Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St., Boston. Admission: $20. To learn more about the Aardvark Christmas concert, visit their website.

Give the gift of jazz this holiday with Jazz In The Key Of Light!

Give the gift of jazz this holiday! A great pick for the holiday is writer-photographer Ken Franckling's Jazz In The Key Of Light, a stunning photography book that presents as a cross-section of Franckling's diverse career as a writer-photographer for United Press International, DownBeat and JazzTimes.

I was able to talk with Ken Franckling about "Jazz In The Key Of Light," Boston's jazz scene, and the role of a jazz photographer.

GM: "Jazz In The Key Of Light" combines photographs as well as quotes from the course of your career. What was the impetus behind the book?

I'd been toying around with the idea of this book twelve years. I was covering the Northeast jazz and music scene, photographing at clubs, festivals and on cruises. The vast majority of the photos are from when I was writing a jazz column for United Press International. Every week I was able to choose a trend, musician or project to write about. In addition I freelanced for both JazzTimes and DownBeat magazines. Because of this, I had a stockpile of hundreds of interviews.

Rather than write a book of jazz profiles or criticism, I wanted to focus on a blend of photographs and the most illuminating quotes from interviews I did with those musicians. This different format shows what the musicians have to say about life itself, who they are, and in some cases, reveals their sense of humor.

The key thing was where the photograph and quote intersected. Some photos were taken years apart from the quote - and some were captured on the same day.

GM: In the Introduction to the book you say, "In live performances and portraiture, musicians can reveal a sense of themselves that extends beyond the moment." Describe this idea within the context of the book.

KF: The photo captures either a sense of identity or pride. It is difficult to photograph musicians while soloing. When they are really into their solo they tend to close their eyes. Yet, when you capture a musician listening to someone else, you can sense a pride in their look, as well as a peaceful and energizing synergy. For example, in the book Marian McPartland's picture is a close-up of her hands. From this portrait you can get the sense of elegance and gentility Marian exuded.

GM: The book is organized by instruments musicians play, such as saxophone, piano and drums rather than showing the photographs chronologically or regionally. How does this layout affect the progression of the book?

KF: Initially I was going to lead with the heavy-hitters, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Sarah Vaughan. Yet, I decided to arrange them alphabetically within instrumental categories. I saw this democratic set up as the same way a band is formed, and it seemed to take a musical flow. I wanted to cover past greats, current greats and future greats. This way, people less familiar with jazz can learn from the diversity of the featured musicians.

GM: Many of the photographs were taken locally. How did Boston's jazz scene impact the photos?

KF: At least thirty percent of the photos were taken in Boston - at Scullers, the Regattabar, Ryles, the Berklee Performance Center, IAJE, Harvard and The Boston Globe Jazz Festival. There is a great picture in the book of Benny Carter visiting Harvard for a one-week residency, in which he held a master class. The image shows him listening intently to a student's solo. The student playing for Carter that afternoon was Joshua Redman, who was a Harvard freshman at the time.

Many unforgettable jazz moments for me - jazz epiphanies - have happened in Boston jazz venues. For example, one night I saw Roy Haynes and Pat Metheny at Scullers - their level of interaction and musical conversation left me with goose bumps.

GM: Can you describe the history of one of the photos in the book?

KF: My greatest memory is from April 1986. I was able to spend three hours interviewing Miles Davis for his 60th birthday for a 4,000-word interview feature that ran in many national and international newspapers. The photo of Miles in the book is from this day, and shows him standing on his balcony in New York.

GM: What do you think is the role of a jazz photographer?

KF: Jazz photographers have an archival history and documentary role. We try to capture moments that stick with you. These moments need to be preserved. You are there to document the moment, but also capture the spirit and the energy.

There can be two photographers at the same concert that take two completely different photographs. It's about the angle and perspective, and how you visualize and listen. Charlie Haden told me that two people can play the same instrument and sound completely different because what you play is a reflection of what you hear and no two people hear the same way. This is how I approach my work as well.

To read more about "Jazz In The Key Of Light," visit Franckling's website or Amazon.

Members connection: Win free tickets to World Music/CRASHarts, Scullers & Regattabar shows!
Clockwise from top left: Eric Alexander, Lionel Loueke, Charles Lloyd, Helen Sung
Clockwise from top left: Eric Alexander, Lionel Loueke, Charles Lloyd, Helen Sung

If you are a JazzBoston member, write to newsletter@jazzboston.org now to enter a drawing for free tickets to any of the events listed below, and please note which shows and dates you are interested in. You must be a JazzBoston member to be eligible to win.

World Music/CRASHarts is offering a pair of free tickets to the following show:

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels, January 31, 7:30 PM, Berklee Performance Center

Scullers is offering one pair of tickets to the following shows:

Helen Sung, December 18, 8 PM
Roy Hargrove, January 9, 10 PM
Tierney Sutton, January 14, 8 PM
Joey DeFrancesco, January 15, 8 PM

Regattabar is offering a pair of tickets to the following shows:

Lionel Loueke CD Release Show, January 14, 7:30 PM
Joe Louis Walker, January 15, 7:30 PM
Emily West, January 21, 7:30 PM
Gonazlo Grau y La Clave Secreta, January 22, 7:30 PM
Eric Alexander Group ft. Harold Mabern, January 23, 10 PM
Donny McCaslin, January 27, 7:30 PM
Hadar Noiberg Trio, January 28, 7:30 PM
Victor Wooten / J.D. Blair Duo, January 29, 10 PM
The Steven Feifke Trio ft. Special Guests, February 4, 7:30 PM

Become a JazzBoston member now. Annual memberships begin as low as $20.

Holiday Picks
Clockwise from top left: Keith Lockhart, John Baboian, Mark Harvey, Hiro Honshuku
Clockwise from top left: Keith Lockhart, John Baboian, Mark Harvey, Hiro Honshuku

With the holidays right around the corner, we wanted to share some local Holiday concerts.

Boston Pops

Join the Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart, celebrating his 20th anniversary with the orchestra, in a performance filled with holiday music favorites, the traditional Pops sing-a-long, and even a visit from jolly old Santa Claus. December 2-24, Boston Symphony Hall. Admission: starting at $31.

North End Music & Performing Arts Center and The Boston Landmarks Orchestra

Conducted by Kristo Kondakci, Assistant Conductor of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, the performance will include Handel's Messiah (Part I) and will feature the NEMPAC Holiday Orchestra, the Boston Landmarks One City Choir, NEMPAC Soloists and the St. John School Youth Honor's Choir. Wednesday, December 9, 7:00 PM, St. Stephen's Church, 401 Hanover Street, Boston.

Aardvark Jazz Orchestra Christmas Concert

(See the feature article above) Saturday, December 12, 7:30 PM, Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St. Admission: $20.

New England Philharmonic presents "Musical Characters Annual Family Concert"

Join the New England Philharmonic in a program that includes John Harbison: Remembering Gatsby; George Antheil: Tom Sawyer Overture; and Rob Kapilow: Elijah's Angel. After the performance all children in the audience will be invited on stage to visit our Instrument Petting Zoo featuring instruments to touch and play with. Sunday, December 13, 3 PM, Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. Admission: free under 5/ $10 students/ $25 seniors/ $40 general.

New England Ringers Winter Solstice

New England Ringers is a 15-member handbell ensemble of highly energetic musicians playing the most advanced handbell literature. New England Ringers amazes listeners of all ages with a blend of lively and beautiful musical moods and styles showcasing unique arrangements of seasonal favorites. Sunday, December 13, 8:00 PM, Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Admission: $18-20.

NEC Holiday Concert

NEC Chamber Singers and Symphonic Winds, led by Erica Washburn and William Drury, present a Jordan Hall reprise of their Holiday Concert program performed earlier this month at Worcester landmark Mechanics Hall. Tuesday, December 15, 7:30 PM, NEC's Jordan Hall, Boston. FREE.

NEC at Boston Children's Museum

NEC's Community Performances and Partnerships Program Holiday Fellows present the Holiday Brass Quintet, a festive concert open to the community. Friday, December 18, 6:00 PM, Boston's Children's Museum. FREE.

Jazz at the Arsenal

Guitarist John Baboian brings his quartet of Daniel Ian Smith on woodwinds, Bruce Gertz on double bass, and Larry Finn on drums to the Arsenal for a performance inspired by the Christmas season. Come and celebrate the season with some fun, entertaining, and jazzy Christmas tunes. Monday, December 21, 7:30 PM, Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal Street, Watertown. Admission: $20 / $18 for members / $15 for students

Funky Grooving A-NO-NE Christmas

Cambridge, flutist Hiro Honshuku will present the Annual Funky Grooving A-NO-NE Christmas featuring Racha Fora Rhythm Section, Andre Vasconcelos on guitar and Rafael Russi on bass, Mark Walker on drums, and the renowned Brazilian flutist Fernando Branão. Wednesday, December 23, 9 PM, Ryles Jazz Club, 212 Hampshire St, Cambridge. Admission: $10.

Christmas Eve Cantatas

Continuing a 45-year old tradition, the Orchestra and Chorus of Emmanuel Music present Bach's cantatas in their original, liturgical setting for which they were intended. This Christmas Eve, Emmanuel Music will present Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ BWV 91 (cantata for the First Day of Christmas) as part of the Emmanuel Church service. Thursday, December 24, 7 PM, Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury Street, Boston. FREE.

No-cost jazz events
Clockwise: John Clayton, Vijay Iyer, Michael Farquharson, Joel LaRue Smith
Clockwise: John Clayton, Vijay Iyer, Michael Farquharson, Joel LaRue Smith

Northeastern Jazz Ensemble

Joel LaRue Smith leads the Northeastern Jazz Ensemble in a diverse program of big band music. The ensem­ble fea­tures the works of past mas­ter com­posers and arrangers, as well as incor­po­rat­ing the works of the best con­tem­po­rary writ­ers active in the field of jazz and Latin Jazz. Wednesday, December 9, Fenway Center, 77 St. Stephen Street.

Vijay Iyer's Harvard Ensembles

Students from pianist Vijay Iyer's classes will perform original compositions in two concerts. Thursday, December 10, 1:00 pm, Music Building, Davison Room, Harvard & Thursday, December 10, 7:00 pm, Holden Chapel, Harvard.

Music of Billy Strayhorn

In honor of the Centennial of Billy Strayhorn's birth on November 29, 1915, the NEC Jazz Orchestra performs many of Strayhorn's best-known compositions and arrangements. In addition, pianist Ran Blake will be featured in a new arrangement of Strayhorn's "Something to Live For" by NEC Jazz Orchestra director Ken Schaphorst. Thursday, December 10, 7:30 PM, NEC's Jordan Hall.

Jason Moran Masterclass

Pianist Jason Moran, a MacArthur Fellow called "the most provocative thinker in current jazz" by Rolling Stone magazine, will visit NEC for lessons, ensemble coachings, and a variety of projects open to the public. Friday, December 11, 1:00 PM, NEC's Brown Hall.

Jazz Composer's Workshop Orchestra

The NEC Jazz Composers' Workshop Orchestra features NEC students performing NEC student-composed works, under the direction of Frank Carlberg. Tuesday, December 15, 7:30 PM, NEC's Brown Hall.

The Eclectic Electrics

Mark White, a professor in the Berklee Guitar Department, presents an afternoon of contemporary jazz for five guitars and a rhythm section. Thursday, December 17, 4 PM, Oliver Colvin Recital Hall, 1140 Boylston Street.

Jazz and CI Faculty Spotlight

Members of NEC's Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation programs present a collection of representative works. Monday, January 25, 7:30 PM, NEC's Jordan Hall.

John Clayton Clinic

Bassist John Clayton comes to Berklee to present a clinic. Tuesday, February 2, 7 PM, Berk Recital Hall, 1140 Boylston Street.

Michael Farquharson / Matthew Nicholl

This concert features original music written by bassist Michael Farquharson and pianist Matthew Nicholl, both from Berklee's Contemporary Writing and Production Department. The music will be performed by a small ensemble. Wednesday, February 3, 7:30 PM, David Friend Recital Hall, 921 Boylston Street.

JazzBoston and the Carter Post throw Mattapan's first holiday jazz party Dec. 13

Sunday afternoon, December 13, JazzBoston and the Willilam E. Carter American Legion Post will come together again to pick up where they left off last spring when they co-hosted one of the highlights of Jazz Week '15 - a multi-lingual, multi-band celebration of jazz and the Mattapan community. This time they're co-hosting Mattapan's first Holiday Jazz Day Party - a family event with something for everyone.

From 2:00 to 6:00 pm there will be great music by Frank Wilkins and WeJazzUp Featuring Wannetta Jackson, great gifts from local artists for the special people on your list, light food from local vendors, and a jam session finale for musicians of all ages. Come and be part of a new jazz tradition in the making! Wear your dancing shoes! Bring your family and friends!

Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, $5 for students and seniors. For more information, contact your local American Legion Post #16 member or call 617-696-0024.

William E. Carter American Legion Post, 1531 Blue Hill Avenue, Mattapan Square

Another local jazz connection: Levi's Restaurant & Lounge

Originally from Trinidad, Levi George came to Dorchester in 1996 to build and run Levi's Restaurant & Lounge, serving Caribbean-style food with the help of his daughter, Millicent. A lover of jazz and blues, Levi George recently started offering jazz on Saturday nights, becoming one of the only live jazz venues in an area once full of clubs. Tipped off by our friend Candelaria Silva, a small party from JazzBoston, including this Editor, paid a visit and spoke with Mr. George.

Inspired by going to the famed Wally's jazz club, Levi George decided to incorporate music into his own restaurant, and reached out to some of the musicians at Wally's to form his jazz schedule. "I wanted a casual, come as you are environment for my restaurant," George explains, "Once we get it going, I want to have jazz Thursday through Saturday, so people have something to come out to."

Upon entering Levi's is the comforting smell of a full day of cooking, from classic roti to soups. With two generous portioned nighttime dishes on the menu, wing dings and fish and chips, you will feel at home when the jazz set starts. At first open and spartan, Levi's decor instantly changes as sparkling colored lights dance in the dark, adding a fun ambiance to the room. With good restaurant acoustics, the sound of the jazz set balances in the space. We heard a lively set by the trio Reaching Out, including standards by Kenny Clarke and Ornette Coleman.

George also prides himself on hosting community events, offering his large space for a variety of local meetings and functions. In this spirit, he notes that jazz is a resource to enhance the local community: "Jazz is good for the neighborhood. It keeps away the parties. I decided that's what I wanted to get into. People can come from work and leave their problems outside."

Easily accessible via train or bus, Levi's is in a convenient area for local jazz fans. Also, the neighborhood surrounding Levi's is building up new apartments for families: "In the next few years the neighborhood is looking good," Millicent adds.

This addition of jazz in Dorchester reaffirms the strength of jazz in the community. Still in the process of finding an audience, as he bids us good night Levi George stands tall and asserts that he won't give up on his new quest to bring in not only music, but his community.

This popular West Indian restaurant at 323 Washington Street in Dorchester has been serving up live jazz every Saturday night since early fall. The weekly Jazz in the City program begins at 9 pm, and instrumentalists are encouraged to bring their instrument to sit in.

Thank you, Levi George, for your addition to Boston's jazz scene. You have our vote for Dorchester's jazz hero.

Support JazzBoston - it's about more than the music!
JazzBoston's Riffs & Raps program helps at-risk teens find their voices and tell their stories.
JazzBoston's Riffs & Raps program helps at-risk teens find their voices and tell their stories.

Supporting JazzBoston is about being part of a community of people who have a close personal or professional connection to the music - people who recognize the power of jazz to bridge divides, tell stories, lift spirits, and give rhythm to our lives.

Please help us continue to put the power of jazz to work throughout the Greater Boston area in 2016. With your support we will be able to:

  • expose more public school children to the music
  • help keep young people on the track to becoming creative, responsible citizens
  • help bring diverse neighborhoods and communities together
  • connect more people of all ages to the music
  • make more government and business leaders aware of the importance of jazz to our cultural life and our economy.

Join JazzBoston, renew, or donate before December 31 for a 2015 tax deduction and an invitation to our annual Members and Friends Appreciation Party in January. Go to www.jazzboston.org and click on "Join Us" on the homepage. Or if you prefer, send a check to Don Carlson, Treasurer, JazzBoston, 393 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02115

Thank you for your support! Warm wishes from all of us at JazzBoston for a joyous holiday season and great listening in the year ahead!

Emmett G. Price III, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Pauline Bilsky, President

Save the date: JazzBoston's Annual Members Appreciation Party
2015 Members Appreciation Party (Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo)
2015 Members Appreciation Party (Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo)

Our favorite and our members' favorite event of the year is set for Sunday, January 31. (Should we say, weather permitting?) Once again, our hosts will be George Lewis Jr. and Todd Winer, co-owners of Pastoral - Artisan Pizza, Kitchen & Bar, a wonderful, hospitable space in the heart of the Fort Point artist community.

This is a free, invitation-only event for all current members as of January 15. As always, great music and great food will be consumed by jazz lovers from all across Greater Boston's jazz community, a Guest of Honor will be toasted and roasted, and we'll present ourselves with a birthday cake. This year's cake will be even bigger and better than usual because we'll be celebrating JazzBoston's 10th anniversary. We hope you'll be there.

A sampling of photos from JazzBoston's 2015 Members Appreciation Party (All photos by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo)
JazzBoston founder Bob Young was our 2015 Guest of Honor. Here Councilor Charles Yancey presents him with a congratulatory Resolution from the Boston City Council.
2015 Members Appreciation Party
JazzBoston Executive Director Pauline Bilsky presents Bob with a special 2015 version of his book, "JazzCooks."
2015 Members Appreciation Party
JazzBoston board member and Aardvark Jazz Orchestra director Mark Harvey toasts Bob Young.
2015 Members Appreciation Party
Legendary jazz impresario Fred Taylor and friend chat with photographer Bill Brett, who covered the party for the Boston Globe.
2015 Members Appreciation Party
Frank Wilkins and WeJazzUp Featuring Wannetta Jackson provided the music for the event. Seen here, left to right, Frank, Wally's matriarch Elynor Walcott, Cleopatra Knight-Wilkins, and a friend.
2015 Members Appreciation Party
The great Wannetta Jackson, with JazzBoston board member Don Carlson and pianist Stanley Sagov enjoying the music in the background.
2015 Members Appreciation Party
Eric Jackson, JazzBoston's friend and advisor and everyone's favorite jazz radio host, was the MC for the event.

JazzBoston is the umbrella and advocacy organization for Greater Boston's jazz community. We connect and promote the entire jazz scene, and we champion the music, the musicians, and Boston's place in the constellation of the world's great jazz cities.

Make a New Year's resolution
to get out and hear more live jazz in 2016