Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Carole Robbins: Moraga

Jazzcats Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Moraga

If one were to cite the instruments least likely to be utilized in jazz, the harp would be near the top. Well, fasten your seat belts: Carol Robbins is a harpist, composer and arranger, and Moraga, her newest album to date, is proof that this ethereal “horn‚” is, in her hands, fully capable of producing beautiful, swinging music.

As a child, Robbins began as a pianist; she switched to the harp at age 10. She may not be well known to the general public, but her expertise has made her a staple among individuals famous in their own worlds: She has performed for presidents and celebrities, been featured in films and on television, and has been nominated for Grammy Awards. She maintains a busy concert schedule and is highly regarded in the music world; she has no problem acquiring top level musicians with whom to perform. 

That’s the case with this release. The quintet supporting her features Billy Childs (piano), Gary Meek (sax and clarinet), Larry Koonse (guitar), Darek Oles (bass) and Gary Novak (drums). Regular readers know that I consider Koonse and Oles to be among the top artists in the jazz world, and Robbins’ association with Childs goes back years. 

Robbins composed six of these nine tunes. Childs contributed “Hope in the Face of Despair,” whileCaminhos Cruzados” comes from Antonia Carlos Jobim. Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye” is the lone standard. 

All but one of these tunes are done at balladic tempos, some with a subtle Latin feel; the exception is “Straight Away,” a burner that gives each performer a chance to stretch out with some dazzling solo work.

This album is gorgeous in every respect. That descriptor isn’t often used when referencing jazz, but it’s apt for this release and these artists. 

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