An exploratory and melodic outing.
(Carol Robbins – harp; Billy Childs – piano, Fender Rhodes; Bob Sheppard – sax/clarinet; Larry Koonse – guitar; Curtis Taylor – trumpet; Darek Oles – bass; Gary Novak – drums; Ben Shephard – electric bass)
For those of you who are not true devotees of jazz harp, you might be surprised to learn that there is an active community which is dedicated to the genre. All one has to do is check out the web site for the Jazz Harp Foundation to see the list of individuals who are currently playing the instrument, including Carol Robbins. If your interest, assuming you had one, peaked in the 1950s with its two best proponents Dorothy Ashby and Corky Hale, this release by Carol Robbins entitled Taylor Street will be an eye-opener.
The tight band that surrounds Robbins, in this nine track set of her originals, is the perfect foil for her excursions on this cumbersome instrument. Opening with “The Flight”, Robbins sets the stage with some inspirational plucking, that gives each one of her cohorts a chance to offer their own improvisations on the theme. On “Deep Canyon” with the exception of a brief solo turn, Robbins is content to stay in the background with some lush chording, giving most of the solo space to trumpeter Curtis Taylor, which he uses with lyricism and ease.
The title track “Taylor Street” is an atmospheric vehicle that engages the players with electric bassist Ben Shephard leading the way. Billy Childs jumps in with an excursion on Fender Rhodes, with Robbins then picking up the line with some deft harp work. For a change of tempo “Full Circle” fills the bill with a delightful waltz. Led by some harmonization between trumpeter Curtis Taylor and the tenor sax of Bob Sheppard, this smart playing gives the other band members the occasion to feed off this tonality with some thoughtful inventiveness. If one waltz number is good, two is better, hence “The Chill”. After the opening theme, tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard takes charge for several choruses in a surefooted style, giving Robbins and guitarist Larry Koonse a chance to explore some incisive interplay.
The final track on the outing is “The Local” which rides on some deep bass work from electric bassist Ben Shephard. With a funky groove having been established, Robbins takes the harp through its paces, before tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard and Billy Childs on Fender Rhodes ad lib their way with appealing playing as tastefulness abounds.
TrackList: The Flight; Deep Canyon; Taylor Street; Full Circle; Trekker; Smooth Ride; The Chill; Grey River; The Local