The revival in the fortunes of the harp has been one of the more unexpected developments in jazz: Brandee Younger
's 2021 album Somewhere Different
made an impact on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, the instrument has been finding favor in the hands of both Tara Minton
and Alina Bzhezhinska
. Now Wales' very own Amanda Whiting
is coming up fast on the rails with this, her third album.
Listening to Lost in Abstraction
is a rich and rewarding experience, proving once again that the harp can do much more than signal flashbacks in movies. Whiting uses it as a strongly melodic instrument, as opposed to an impressionist swirl or as a shadow of Alice Coltrane
. In fact, if there is any discernible influence, it is that of Dorothy Ashby
, who was able to create a whole new identity for the harp, making it sound comfortable across a range of musical styles. And there is just as much variety on show here.
Whiting is a fan of hip-hop, drum'n'bass and Latin music, as well as more obvious jazz progenitors such as Bill Evans
. "Got It?" for example, is a funky, noirish tune which would make a fine theme for some dark TV drama. On "Up There," her command of dynamics enables her to switch from a gentle, folky solo intro to a driving waltz, aided by capable sidemen Aidan Thorne
on bass, Jon Reynolds
on drums, and percussionist Baldo Verdu
. Her solo work, as on the ballad "Discarded," is deep and masterful. Guest appearances by flautist Chip Wickham
on the tango number "Venus Fly Trap" and the bossa nova "Temptation" remind us of the time when both were playing with Matthew Halsall
, where Whiting's role was relatively limited. But she is at her best when she is in the spotlightthat is how good she is (and by the way, the record sleeve is as gorgeous as the music).
Abstraction; Lost; Venus Fly Trap; Temptation; Too Much; Where Would We Be; Up There; Discarded; Suspended; Got It?