Carol Robbins: Moraga

The very presence of a harp, Carol Robbins’ instrument, can cloak jazz in the veneer of new age. On Moraga, it does, and the Windham Hill vibe is amplified by low-key tunes and the presence of Gary Meek’s soprano saxophone and Larry Koonse’s classical guitar. While Robbins does interact with those frontline partners, especially Koonse (“Three Rings,” “Dolore”), she more often lets them dominate while she provides chordal support (secondary to pianist Billy Childs) and archetypal harp glissandi-essentially becoming a background colorist in her own band. Her solos often amount to what Frank Zappa called “cloud and angel music”; “Straight Away,” the album’s only real swinger, finally gives her real rhythmic meat to chew on, if only after Meeks and Childs have had their fill. The harp is a gorgeous instrument, no less so in Robbins’ hands, and does have a unique place in jazz. Moraga, though, is elevator music.