Carol Robbins, harp – Taylor Street – Jazzcats

A welcome jazz harp with ensemble release…

Carol Robbins, harp – Taylor Street – Jazzcats 109, 53:49 ****:

(Carol Robbins – harp; Billy Childs – piano and Fender Rhodes; Bob Sheppard – saxophones and clarinet; Larry Koonse – guitar; Curtis Taylor – trumpet; Derek Oles – bass; Gary Novak – drums; Ben Shepherd – electric bass)

There is a lushness to the jazz harp with ensemble release, Taylor Street, from harp player Carol Robbins, that will draw listeners in immediately, and demand further replays to fully appreciate its harmonic richness. Robbins studied with the pre-eminent jazz harpist, Dorothy Ashby, and she explores the harp’s strengths as a lead instrument backed by top L.A. session men on nine of her original compositions.

Certainly it’s the lyrical bliss inducing aura brought on by a full size concert harp that begins the process. Billy Childs’ piano and Fender Rhodes expands the landscape with his Jazz Chamber Ensemble mates, Bob Sheppard on sax and clarinet, and guitarist, Larry Koonse. The burnished tone of trumpeter Curtis Taylor rounds out the front line, backed by bass and drums. The nine tracks are a blend of heated jazz, bluesy riffs, and a strong dose of classical motifs that will bring to mind a small group version of Maria Schneider’s mood-enhancing strengths.

Bob Sheppard’s soprano sax weaves a spell on the opening number, “The Flight” before trumpeter Curtis Taylor blows hot. The full ensemble then fully kicks in. “Deep Canyon” is a full feature for Curtis Taylor’s trumpet with the harp weaving in and out. The title track is electrified and Ben Shepherd’s electric bass provides the underpinnings supported by Child’s Fender Rhodes. The tune has a 1970s CTI vibe.

“Full Circle” is a jazz waltz that is enhanced by the lushness that Robbins’ harp brings. “Trekker” expands the sonic landscape with improvisational exploration and Robbins really opens up on this modal excursion. “The Chill” has Koonse, Sheppard, and Robbins caressing a lightly swinging melody, perfect for late night enjoyment.

“Grey River” would add to that mood as it is a lovely ballad blending poignant clarinet, minimalist piano, and calming harp. The closer, “The Local,” branches out towards R & B with gentle funky overtones. Take a saunter on Taylor Street. It will brighten your day.

TrackList: The Flight, Deep Canyon, Taylor Street, Full Circle, Trekker, Smooth Ride, The Chill, Grey River, The Local

—Jeff Krow

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