Tara Minton & Ed Babar: Two For The Road

If it often veers towards muzak and isn't always about jazz, Minton's harp-led session has several poignant, even profound moments


The modest tradition of the harp in jazz, taking in everyone from Dorothy Ashby to David Snell, is given a contemporary profile by the work of Tara Minton, who on the basis of this release has what it takes to get jazz out of such an unlikely instrument.

That said, this programme only infrequently has the quiet fire that Ashby worked up over a number of releases with Frank Wess (exclusively on flute). In other places, as far as I can hear, the music slips into the background, creating the ambience of a café in which the music serves no purpose other than that of a dubious backdrop to patrons’ conversation. The opening Life In A Bubble is a case in point.

Compare this with the rendition of ’Round Midnight, recordings of which are hardly thin on the ground, and frustration is the name of the game. The piece is given a studied, reflective airing and deftly sets out its own territory, not least because Minton indulges in some Monkian dissonances and thus ruffles the music’s otherwise calm surface.

The title track is deeply poignant. For this reviewer Minton the singer doesn’t always have jazz credentials, but in this instance she gets more than enough out of the lyric. Babar’s bowed bass has the effect of making the music even more moving, and the same goes for Stan Sulzmann’s input on Whirlpool, where the balance between reflection and profundity is beautifully struck.

Life In A Bubble; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Games; What We Have To Be; Caravan; You Go To My Head; ’Round Midnight; Whirlpool; The Shadow Of Your Smile; Jazz Autographs; Blackbird Two For The Road; Life In A Bubble Epilogue (55.20)
Minton (h, v); Ed Babar (b); Stan Sulzmann (ts); Lilia Iontcheva (pc). Lightship 95 Studio, April 2021.
Jazzizit Records JITCD87