I saw this Jacqueline Kerrod CD in the review pile and I though oh, harp improvisations! I like the harp. I have plenty of harp recordings that I use as demo tracks. I adore Joanna Newsom. I love Celtic harp. Harps are beautiful, and they transport you to beautiful places when you listen to them. Let’s cue this up.
If this is roughly how you feel about harps, South African harpist Jacqueline Kerrod wants to have a word with you. On her debut solo album, 17 Days in December (nice timing, huh?), Kerrod performs solo improvisations for acoustic and electric harp, and between these two instruments she can create so many different sounds that the solo designation almost seems misinformed. This is wildly different music from improvisation to improvisation, 17 tracks, each one recorded on a different day at her home in Princeton. Hence the title.
The story here is a little familiar, something to do with Covid-based isolation bringing out the creative juices, but none of that knowledge prepares you for the wide variety of music you’re about to hear. Jacqueline Kerrod starts off with a lovely solo on acoustic harp, and it is dense and lush without being overtly pretty or superficially pleasant. Once she switches to the electric harp, you’ll start hearing the noise, the errant buzzing of strings, the distortion and buzzing, and suddenly you’re hearing something very different that old-fashioned harp music.
The genius of these tracks are slowly revealed as Jacqueline Kerrod starts to meld the two approaches, as the noise starts to shift back and forth from acoustic to electric. These unique sounds reminds me of Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, with one hand on the keyboard and the other hand fiddling about within that big wooden box. Jacqueline Kerrod creates that same sense of adventure in her improvisations, and it’s otherworldly and an immense amount of fun.