Pacific Harp Project = Works of Grandjany, Debussy, Ravel, Liszt & others – The Pacific Harp Project

Pacific Harp Project = MARCEL TOURNIER: Sonatine; MEGAN BLEDSOE WARD: Revenge of the Harpies; Portrait; Willow Waltz; Serafina; MARCEL GRANDJANY: Rhapsodie; CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Danse Sacree et Profane; MAURICE RAVEL; Introduction and Allegro; FRANZ LISZT: Un Sospiro; ALLAN WARD: First Take; Incognito – The Pacific Harp Project (Megan Bledsoe Ward, harp/Noel Okimoto, vibes/Jon Hawes, bass/Allan Ward, drums) – Pacific Harp Project, 60:00, (12/04/15) ***1/2:

Very innovative combo and some delightful tunes.

The Pacific Harp Project is mainly the brain child of harpist Megan Bledsoe Ward and husband and drummer Allan Ward. Their idea is simple and yet so refreshingly clever; to seek out or create new avenues for harp in a chamber setting – which is largely solo harp and rhythm section. This concept may sound rather weird but the results are pretty entertaining.

We get some arrangements of harp “standards”  performed by the Wards that includes pieces most non-harpists know, such as the positively ethereal Danses Sacree et Profane of Debussy and the equally rapturous Introduction and Allegro of Ravel. (I happen to love both those pieces.) These combo renditions, only slightly “jazzed up”, work quite well and are beautiful in any guise.

We also get a few transcriptions and ‘harpist only’ pieces such as the Tournier, Grandjany and the Liszt Sospiro. I enjoyed the Liszt the most here, although the Grandjany Rhapsodie is charming, as is the Tournier.

The rest of this album is improvisations or short pieces by the Wards; each one carrying a sort of light jazz or kind of Latin-ish feeling. I got a kick out of Incognito in particular, which lives up to its implications, as the press release says; “inspired by spy movies.”

I also enjoyed Revenge of the Harpies which, strictly speaking, is an improv based on the harp cadenza from Ravel’s Tzigane. I think some of these collaboration type works succeeded better than others. Serafina is another engaging little solo work.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this collection. I do not know of other harp-based jazz combos and their choice in music is very diverse and very convincing. This group is based in Hawaii and the recording is quite good. If and when I ever make it over there I think they would be well worth hearing in person!

—Daniel Coombs

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