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Taylor Street

Jazzcats JCTS 109 [53:51]




Taylor Street

Jazzcats JCTS 109 [53:51]

  1. The Flight

  2. Deep Canyon

  3. Taylor Street

  4. Full Circle

  5. Trekker

  6. Smooth Ride

  7. The Chill

  8. Grey River

  9. The Local

    Carol Robbins - Harp

    Billy Childs - Piano, Fender Rhodes

    Bob Sheppard - Saxophones, clarinet

    Larry Koonse - Guitar

    Curtis Taylor - Trumpet

    Darek Oles - Bass

    Gary Novak - Drums

    Ben Shepherd - Electric Bass

    Chicago-born but LA-raised, jazz harpist Carol Robbins is one of a select group of musicians to have studied with Dorothy Ashby, the outstanding bop harpist from the nineteen fifties through to the seventies, and beyond. Of course, there have been other jazz performers on the instrument, such as Alice Coltrane and more recently, Iro Haarla, but the harp is hardly centre stage on the jazz scene. Anyone inclined towards being dismissive, however, should listen to this album. For a start, there are some excellent jazz talents in the group. Billy Childs on piano and Fender Rhodes, for instance, is a multi Grammy-award winning musician. His Jazz Chamber Ensemble was formed in 2001 and over the years, several members of the band on this disc, including Robbins herself, have featured with that Ensemble. Then, there is the impressive style and technique which Robbins brings to her work here. I believe this is her fifth album (the last one was released in 2012). She has also accompanied a host of major vocalists, during her career. All the tunes on this latest CD were written by her. The versatile saxophonist Bob Sheppard can be heard on soprano and tenor sax and on clarinet on the disc.

    The album is consistently engaging and Robbins proves to be a generous leader, by no means hogging the limelight and providing equal opportunities for others to shine, too. I particularly enjoyed Smooth Ride, which lived up to its title and had an appealing theme, to boot. Sax and trumpet combine well and there are impeccable solos from Fender Rhodes and harp. Other stand-outs are Deep Canyon, Trekker and Full Circle . The peaceful and meditative Deep Canyon refers to the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles and is a distinctly mellow piece of music. Full Circle has a lilting melody and Robbins, especially, is conspicuously good on a lively number. She is also on form on Trekker, a catchy theme which the group as a whole relish, judging by their performances. Taylor Street refers to the place in Chicago's Little Italy, where Carol's mother was born. In fact, the CD is dedicated to that special lady. It's a piece notable for the fluency of the soloists and again Robbins reveals herself as entirely at ease in a jazz setting. The Chill is another gentle swinger which brings to mind the music from the film, The Odd Couple. Grey River is both wistful and tender, with clarinet and harp combining memorably, and Billy Childs typically sensitive on piano. The Local makes for a fine finale. A special word of commendation here for the work of drummer Gary Novak, an influential presence throughout the disc. As the track draws to a close, the final flourish, fittingly, comes from the harp.

    I've singled out certain musicians for praise in this review but it is fair to say that there are no passengers in the group. The disc is a pleasure to listen to, with every track providing moments of sheer quality. As for Carol Robbins, she is a natural improviser and amply illustrates that her instrument deserves to be taken seriously in a jazz context.

    James Poore


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