Brandee Younger




You have to be equally committed and imaginative to even think about doing it. The harp first appeared in jazz in 1934 and, 85 years on, a complete collection of all jazz harp records will hardly clutter your shelves or hard-drive, it being a challenge to make the instrument work harmonically, rhythmically and dynamically. But that has not deterred the brilliant Brandee Younger, whose choice of compositions and collaborators allows her to highlight the instrument’s exquisite combination of elegance and ethereality, whether she is soloing or accompanying.

On two pieces those collaborators include tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, stepson of jazz’s best-known jazz harpist, Alice Coltrane (whose Blue Nile is featured). Don’t expect a tame or relentlessly pretty aesthetic: the music is suffused with a joyful vigour that carries echoes of Pharoah Sanders’ great albums of 50 years ago, with the harp dancing in and out of such fiercer instruments as the drums and horns. Yet its very presence not only thickens the textures, but deepens the music, so it approaches what some might call spiritual exaltation. Entirely appositely, the repertoire stretches to Marvin Gaye’s Save the Children.