The harp is certainly rare in jazz and so its role in a traditional combo is not well defined. Alice Coltrane, for example used it as a supplement to her keyboards, while Adele Girard, played it like a boogie woogie piano. Others like Janet Putnam and Betty Glamann were relegated to a rhythm guitar role in bands--very few approached it as a frontline instrument. Of those few, perhaps, the most preeminent representative is Dorothy Ashby who revolutionized the harp, taking it out of afternoon tearooms and into nocturnal jazz clubs. On Carol Robbins' Moraga--her fourth album as ...read more
While the harp is often pigeonholed as an instrument that belongs in the confines of classical music, artists like Carol Robbins, Zeena Parkins and Edmar Castaneda are helping to change public perception about this topic. Castaneda has created rhythmically engaging music that's high on excitement, and Parkins is constantly breaking barriers by invading every area, from edgy, alternative rock to avant-garde jazz, with her harp in hand(s); but Robbins is the one that found a way to manipulate the instrument's classical nature to be used for jazz purposes. While her harp has provided color behind jazz vocalists ...read more
The harp is probably one of the least recognized and utilized instruments in jazz yet, the jazz harp is as much a part of the genre as the saxophone, with only a handful of musicians making it their instrument of choice. The late Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane, along with Lori Andrews, Columbian Edmar Castaneda and Frenchman Jakez Francois are a few of the exponents of the harp within the jazz realm. There is another prominent member of this list and that happens to be two-time Grammy--nominated harpist Carol Robbins, from Los Angeles. The light-hearted and mellow Moraga, her fourth ...read more
Close in timbre to a guitar but with a much wider scope and open feel, the concert harp can both thrill with sheets of sound and soothe with delicate nuance. There is all this and more on Jazz Play. Harpist Carol Robbins places her instrument in the midst of a jazz ensemble for a most agreeable musical junction that features new music and delightful takes on standards. Aided by the flexible rhythm section of bassist Derek Oles and drummer Tim Pleasant, the session is marked by unique interchanges among harp, guitar, sax and trumpet. Each of the ...read more
The harp makes one of its rare appearances in jazz in the hands of Carol Robbins on Jazz Play. She also wrote several of the tunes on this recording and included some standards. And where does that place the music? Right in the mainstream, with some softer shades of what is known as contemporary jazz. The introduction of the latter causes no damage; the soothing waft it brings in is pleasant enough, without detracting from the core.
One of the tunes which gets this treatment is The Meaning of the Blues. Robbins shades it in pastel colours, while guitariwst Larry ...read more
In the second Dirty Harry movie, Magnum Force, the catchphrase of Clint Eastwood's Inspector Callahan is A man's got to know his limitations. Over the past decade, harpist Carol Robbins has attempted to defy the preconceived limitations of her instrument. She's employed the harp--surely one of the most unwieldy of instruments--in a jazz setting, despite inherent challenges involved in manipulating its complicated set of pedals on the fly to meet the spontaneous demands of improvisation.
Still, while the harp has its own set of possibilities, it's apparently a relatively limited instrument in terms of dynamics, and so on Jazz Play ...read more
There's a reason mythology puts the harp in the hands of angels. The instrument's lushness shimmers, light and untethered, a beautiful, silvery sound, floating in the clouds. But does that dynamic make for good jazz? The same question nags at the with strings" genre, in spite of master works there by Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, Jim Snidero and many more. In some minds, violins and cellos" by necessity equals classical music. Those same minds may put up the compartment walls against the harp, but that is--as one spin of harpist Carol Robbins' Jazz Play proves--a misguided construction.read more
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