CELESTIAL SEASONINGS…The Pacific Harp Project: The Pacific Harp Project, Brandee Younger, Wax and Wane

Jazz and the harp have been a tenuous couple since the beginning. Dorothy Ashby bopped it, Alice Coltrane put it into modal form, and Carol Robbins does some nice bluesy stuff. That’s about it, but here are a couple albums that might push the idea forward.

Megan Bledsoe Ward seems intent on changing that. Here, she teams up with Noel Okimoto/vib, Jon Hawes/b and Allan Ward/dr for a lithely swinging mix of originals and takes on classical thoughts.

Ward’s touch on the harp is similar to a high tuned guitar when she picks on the ballads “Portrait” and her conversation with the drums on “Serafina.” The teaming of vibes and drums as a sonic foil works well on “Revenge of the Harpies” and “First Take” and there is no sense of novelty as the strings weave from strums to single note ideas on”Rhapsodie” and “Dance Sacree.” Hawes’ bass does some nice contrast and compare on “Incognito” and you don’t even think “classical” when you hear this band’s take of Liszt’s “Un Sospiro.”  Nothing bad to harp about here!

Brandee Young teams up with Anne Drummond/fl, Chelsea Baratz/ts, Mark Whitfield/g, Dezron Douglas/b and Dana Hawkins/dr to spotlight the harp in an more R&B context. You get some funky wah wah guitar and bass line on “Essence of Ruby” and disco beats on the strutting “Black Gold” and “Afro Harping.” Her lively pizzicato works well on a modern classical sound during “Ruby Echo” and she takes you to Asian atmospheres on the more spacious strums of “Ebony Haze.” A hint of Shaft gets grooving on “Soul Vibrations” and Hawkins delivers a heavy backbeat on “Essence of Ruby.” Sharp harp!




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