Program celebrates release
of ‘Deep River’ CD and 
Aardvark’s 43rd season

BRUNWICK — Maine guitarist/composer Richard Nelson and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra join forces on Saturday, Sept. 12, at Bowdoin College to celebrate the release of Nelson’s new CD “Deep River” as well as Aardvark’s 43rd season. The program, titled “Jazz Americana,” features “Deep River,” a multi-faceted jazz suite that Nelson composed for the orchestra, in a powerful re-imagining of American traditional songs from the 1920s and 1930s.

The free concert will be held at  Studzinski Recital Hall, Bowdoin College
Brunswick from  7 to 9 p.m.,. FMI call 207-725-3747.

“Deep River” showcases Aardvark vocalist Grace Hughes and guest vocalist Timothy Johnson, who serves on the faculties of Bowdoin College and U Maine Augusta. In addition, the band pays tribute to the resilient city of New Orleans a decade after Hurricane Katrina with two staples from the Crescent City, arranged by Mark Harvey: “Down by the Riverside” and “St. James Infirmary Blues” (made famous by Louis Armstrong).

Over the past quarter century Nelson has established a reputation as a versatile, imaginative player and consummate composer in both jazz and new music settings. “Deep River” is a singular jazz suite that reimagines and reclaims early 20th-century American roots music. In collaboration with Mark Harvey’s Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, the inveterately inventive Boston ensemble in which Nelson has performed since the late 1980s, the album brings a 21st century improvisational aesthetic to the unvarnished and idiosyncratic folk forms of an American republic almost lost to living memory. His fourth and most ambitious album, “Deep River” is was released on Sept. 8.

In many ways, “Deep River” builds upon Nelson’s acclaimed 2011 album Pursuit (Heliotrope Records), which features the 13-piece Maine-based Richard Nelson Large Ensemble and centers on a striking five-movement suite that artfully navigates dense, latticed harmonies. While he explores similar structural and textural concepts on “Deep River” he composed the suite specifically for Aardvark, “a very established and stable group with a long and distinguished history,” Nelson says

For many, becoming a parent alters the experience of time, shifting one’s perspective inexorably toward the future. But for Nelson, fatherhood set him on an epic journey into the past, where he found the raw materials and inspiration for Deep River. Nelson traces the project’s roots back about a decade, to gigs he started playing around Brunswick, Maine with his 12-year-old son, Dan, who was smitten with voices found on Harry Smith’s epochal “Anthology of American Folk Music.” Artists like the Carolina Tar Heels and the Carter Family, and later figures such as Woody Guthrie and Doc Watson, inspired the young man and with Richard playing lead guitar and singing backup, they developed a repertoire of blues, stomps, bluegrass, and old-time fiddle tunes and ballads. The intensity of his son’s concentration on this protean music opened a door to pieces like the Delmore Brothers’ “Deep River Blues” as interpreted by Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt’s beseeching rendition of “Make Me a Pallet on your Floor.”


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