Oh, thank God for Carol Robbins! As a kid, I'd seen Harpo Marx, Celtic ensemblists, and others play the harp and was entranced by it, that beautiful airily pianistic sound but of plectrum rather than hammers. Then Georgia Kelley came along and I wept "No, no, noooo! This isn't how it goes!". Luckily, Art in America popped up (not successfully enough, dammit) and Shishonee Flynn lifted my sodden heart back into the air. Well, now Carol Robbins has issued Moraga, and brought the whole affair back down to the ground where all and sundry can dance, fingersnap, head-bob, and bliss out as she dares more adventurous but still sumptuously beautiful terrain alongside a very capable band boasting Billy Childs on piano and Larry Koonse on guitar. Guy Meeks, however, plies an extremely elastic sax and clarinet somewhat a la Paul McCandless by way of George Howard, joining the erudite pair in elevated chops.
Gary Novak's drums are forever turning variations and conversational twists as Darek Oles' bass burrows beneath him and the rest of the band, setting up propulsive tremors and susurrations. Much of the energetics, however, issue from Childs and Meeks, and when they get into it in tandem or just linearly, lord, what an energy gets conjured—sometimes Oregon-ish, other times, Weather Report-esque, still other times only themselves and no one else. Robbins' self-penned tunes occupy the majority here, solid and, in the case of Three Rings, Romantic, Meek hitting a Ravelian level in his lines, as mournful as Le Tombeau de Couperin, Robbins following behind, supplying sad sparrows and doves. Dolore continues the mood in a slow bossa tempo, upping the pace slightly, an afternoon in rain highlighted by Konse's complementary lines.
In fact, the CD remains in that mood for a good long while, pensive and laconic amid understated beauty, measured paces, and philosophical turns of mind and phrasing. Straight Away, however, eventually brings everything back to a brisker modern jazz environment, everyone again capering and bouncing about in joyous abandon, Meeks first especially crazed and ecstatic on that killer clarinet, followed by Childs dancing in his footsteps, Robbins floating lightly behind, ringing in shimmering curtains of notes and chords. The choice of Nino Rota's Rotadendron to close was a particularly good one, another Impressionistic recital. It gently brings down the curtain but without a sense of finality, more a landscape seen in the rear window on a road leading back to the everyday world, the journey done but with promise of a return trip (though, c'mon, y'all Jazzcats label guys, the ending coulda been a touch less abrupt even if the song itself called for it…though it is pretty cool).
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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