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 thirteen scenes in this Jazz Play are economically presented, with various instrumental combinations that highlight the range of Robbins' technique and her impressive improvisational ability. Steve Huffsteter's muted trumpet blends exceptionally well with Robbins on her original compositions, like the swinging "Buddy's Bite, the gently caressing "Still Light and the more intensely moody "Tangier. The harp also seems custom made for a breezy Latin groove, and guitarist Larry Koonse helps expand Jobim's beautiful samba "O Grande Amor by delicately alternate lead and comping role with Robbins. The two instruments likewise duet and meld into one on ethereal versions of Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa's lovely "Sambolero and Johnny Mandel's "Don't Look Back.
The free-flowing mood of the John Lewis standard "Skating in Central Park is perfectly captured by the combination of Robbins' exquisite chords and Bob Sheppard's sax augmentation, which also touchingly reveals a personal portrait of "Emilia. During a unique treatment of the Jerome Kern chestnut "I'm Old Fashioned, an extended harp opener precedes the tune being taken through myriad paces by drum, bass, harp and Sheppard's soprano sax. Wonderfully put together and no mere novelty, Robbins' record has helped make a place for the harp in mainstream jazz.
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.
Carol Robbins: harp; Larry Koonse: guitar; Bob Shappard: soprano and tenor saxophones; Steve Hufstetter: trumpet and flugal horn; Derek Oles: bass; Tim Pleasant: drums.