In the context of jazz, the harp is a rare instrument indeed and there are proportionately few players in the field. Two exponents of this rare art are Alice Coltrane and the British harpist David Snell whose library composition "International Flight" is a jazz harp classic. A third is Carol Robbins, whose album Taylor Street is the follow-up to her 2012 album Moraga.
It's important to emphasise that this is an ensemble album, so the musicians are afforded generous amounts of soloing time. Billy Childs, Curtis Taylor and Bob Sheppard all solo on the lively opener "The Flight" and Curtis Taylor leads the melody on the tranquil "Deep Canyon" with Carol Robbins accompanying in a harmonic role and later has a brief harp solo.
However, there's more substantial harp soloing on the bluesy title track and the ballad "Full Circle." Darek Oles opens "Trekker" solo, culminating in a bass vamp after which point Robbins eloquently solos, even insinuating some intriguingly blues- inflected glissandi.
On "The Chill" (a dulcet waltz) there's sumptuous interplay between harp, guitar and harmon-muted trumpet and later, Bob Sheppard is heard on tenor sax. The pastoral "Grey River" imbues a sense of the meditative quality of the harp, and twinned with clarinet is an irresistible tune. The album concludes with the quietly funky groove of "The Local" where Robbins imparts some more bluesy harp and Sheppard solos robustly on tenor followed by Billy Childs on Rhodes.
If there are any criticisms to be made of the album they are only minor ones; occasionally the harp, guitar and Fender Rhodes suffer from perceived sonic ambiguity in that they are marginally similar sounding. The other comment is that Robbins could be higher up in the mix given that the harp is intrinsically a quiet instrument. Also it would be great to hear more of Robbins's harp solos, but as stated at the outset this is an ensemble affair and a very good one at that.
The Flight; Deep Canyon; Taylor Street; Full Circle; Trekker; Smooth Ride; The
Chill; Grey River; The Local.
Carol Robbins: harp; Billy Childs: piano, Fender Rhodes; Bob Sheppard: soprano
sax, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Larry Koonse: guitar; Curtis Taylor: trumpet;
Darek Oles: bass; Ben Shepherd: electric bass; Gary Novak: drums.
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