Sunday, May 8, 2011

In review--Harping a Delightful Song

Maeve Gilchrist
Song of Delight
Adventure Music

Harpist-vocalist-composer Maeve Gilchrist brings diverse musical experiences and training to Song of Delight.  Her Scottish background coupled with her studies at the Berkeley School of Music (Boston) act as an intriguing combination. But this of course proves challenging for music reviewers in search of musical references. Certainly I can hear shades of Joni Mitchell who blended the American folk tradition with jazz. I can also hear shades of Catalan harpist-vocalist Arianna Savall.  Gilchrist possesses a sharp gift for melody and coupled with her sensitive and innovative harp playing.  Here Aidan O’Donnell’s string bass pairs up with the high and medium tones of the Celtic harp.  Guest musicians include Mike Block on cello, Darol Anger (also produced the recording), on violin, Joe Walsh on mandolin and Hannah Read on violin which together create a jazz chamber sound.

Falling somewhere between a misty Scottish folk sound and melodic jazz with bits of a pop chanteuse tossed in, the recording is aptly titled.  The text (when I listen carefully) speaks to our more romantic yet intellectual side.  The music provides a lush dreamscape sprinkled by harp and string instruments.  Legend of the Ear comes the closest to marrying Scottish folkloric with American jazz. Gilchrist marries lilting Gaelic with the jazz scat.  It’s a strange conversation that leaves the ears intrigued.  While Gilchrist composed the bulk of songs on the recording, her cover of Stephane Grappelli’s Automne fits like a glove here.  It’s also the moodiest song on the CD, giving “wistfulness” new meaning.

Although Song of Delight introduces me to Maeve Gilchrist for the first time, I have a feeling that this vocalist-harpist has won my heart.  I’m enjoying this recording and already my ears thirst for more from this musician.  Her debut on Adventure Music sounds phenomenal to me, filled with stunning melodies, and intriguing arrangements mixing jazz and traditional Celtic.  I find myself hitting the replay button when the CD winds to its end and the last notes of the harp fade into sunlight.

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