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Carol Robbins: Jazz Play

Dan McClenaghan By

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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.

The harp is not often heard in jazz, and less so with the harpist as a leader. That said, Carol Robbins has crafted a first-rate jazz outing, sophisticted and swinging, cool and sometimes slinky. Check out the Robbins-penned opener, "Buddy's Bite," with the leader cooking with cool heat behind Steve Hufstetter's relaxed muted trumpet groove. "The Cribbler," another Robbins tune, features saxophonist Bob Sheppard blowing with soulful, bluesy eloquence in front of a glowing harmonic backdrop before Robbins takes a turn—succinct, swinging, lighter than air. "Sollevare" is a light-stepping bossa that showcases some gorgeous harp/guitar interplay between Robbins and Larry Koonse.

The covers include pieces by Jobim ("O Grande Amor"), Jerome Kern ("I'm Old Fasioned") and John Lewis ("Skating in Central Park"). To lift the set from the "damned fine" to "truly excellent" category, we have bassist Darek Oles and drummer Tim Pleasant, locked in, providing solid rhythms and surprising colors all the way through.

A graceful and gorgeously assured set by harpist Carol Robbins.

Track Listing: Buddy's Bite; O Grande Amour; Still Light; The Meaning of the Blues; Darcy's Waltz; Tangier; Emilia; Don't Look Back; The Cribbler; Skating in Central Park; Sollevare; I'm Old Fashioned; Sambolero.

Personnel: Carol Robbins: harp; Larry Koonse: guitar; Bob Shappard: soprano and tenor sax; Steve Hufstetter: trumpet and flugal horn; Derek Oles: bass; Tim Pleasant: drums.

Title: Jazz Play | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Jazzcats

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