Title: Straight from the Harp
Artist: Mariea Antoinette
Label: MAH Productions
Format: CD (special edition)
Release date: September 25, 2015
Though the “harp” in African American music is more typically a harmonica, Mariea Antoinette proves that the concert harp “is not a quiet, dreamy, boring instrument,” but can be “funky like you’ve never heard it before.” Originally trained in classical music, the San Diego artist expanded her horizons to become an urban-jazz harpist, performing for the likes of Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige and Jamie Foxx.
Antoinette fuses multiple genres on her sophomore album, Straight from the Harp. Though falling predominantly into the smooth jazz domain, she brings elements of EDM, hip-hop, pop, rock, and R&B into the mix across 13 tracks that interweave virtuosic harp solos and interludes. The bulk of the album features lush arrangements of many classics, including Bobby Brown’s “Rock Wit’Cha,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love,” a super funky version of the ‘70s classic “Boogie Nights,” Barry White’s hit single “I’m Gonna Love You (Just A Little More Baby),” and a “reggae light” version of Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain.”
In addition to these covers, there are a number of original songs, including “Special Treasure” which fuses a ‘70s soul sound with hip-hop beats, and the closing track “Walk the Walk,” featuring electric violinist Karen Briggs in a sweeping cinematic fusion of smooth jazz and soft rock with classical riffs on the harp.
In addition to performing as a soloist, Antoinette has collaborated with the all-female ensemble Jazz In Pink since 2007 (of which Biggs is a member), and still performs with orchestras on occasion. She has certainly succeeded in her goal of making the harp “a funky and sexy instrument,” displaying a degree of versatility that definitely sets her apart.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss