"…a sound world that melds folk and jazz into a funky, toe-tapping kaleidoscope."
Maeve Gilchrist, harp; and Viktor Krauss, bass. Adventure Music America, 2017.
If you’re looking how to get your groove back, look no further than the latest disc with harpist/composer Maeve Gilchrist. With just one other musician, Viktor Krauss—composer, bassist, guitarist, cellist, keyboardist and percussionist—she creates a sound world that melds folk and jazz into a funky, toe-tapping kaleidoscope. I guarantee you’ll want to keep this disc on repeat.
Opening like the pages of a storybook is “Farika,” the ostinato bass haloed in keyboard colors and giving way to the entrance of the harp. The magic is in the driving rhythm, the pulse that beats like a heart, but always maintains melodic integrity, even when loose. In “Octave” this is even more apparent, a sleight-of-hand that fools us into hearing the harp not as a plucked instrument, but something sung; the lines are jaunty and accented, but have the power of lungs behind them.
In “Philo,” it’s the opposite. With just bass and harp singing to one another, there’s a delight in the physical contact of fingers on strings, even if a little fuzz makes its way into the mix, a crunchy fleshy press on the strings becomes the juiciest part of the music. What a banquet to have this instrument and all its potential! Maeve shows us that even aggressive and ugly has a purpose. “Rusted” then takes wing in the way that every good harpist knows she’s supposed to be an angel on this earth with gorgeous sound, but even here, Maeve takes risks to push our imagination beyond the expected.
“Curbside at 3AM” suggests any early riser awaiting a taxi to take her to, where? The airport, and then? The pace is slow, the morning foggy, the alarm chiming still part of a half-remembered dream. But then, we are generously brought back to the soulful in “Allemande,” an homage to the kind of Bach we all wish we had been allowed to play. All musicians of every stripe soon discover Bach works on every instrument and in every style, this time no exception. It is a moment in the disc of absolute repose. The title track “Vignette” vying for this slot, the one spot in the album where the instrumentalists strive for their most acoustic quality. It is a magical moment, and I like that it was saved for last, and with a questioning quality.
Before that is one of my favorites, “Waimea Rising.” Waimea. On the island of Hawaii entered pop culture through the original beach boys, Jan and Dean, and you may have sung it yourself when the Beach Boys came on the oldies station. This time, the surf board is sticking up out of the sunroof, as the artists careen towards the beach and a day of adventure. This disc is all original in the composition and the sound combinations, creating a whole new style. It’s joyous stuff.