Album Title: Passing By
Release Date: November 2023
“Spellbinding… If you think harp is a classically-curtailed instrument, you will be invited, enticed and intrigued into realising otherwise’
(Louder Than War)
Greek born with Egyptian roots, electric jazz harpist and composer Maria-Christina Harper is reinventing the sound of the harp in the jazz world. With her anarchic spirit and an interest in exploring what the harp can do, rather than exploring its traditional sounds, she presents her instrument in new and exciting ways. Combining her traditional music roots with free jazz she creates an irresistible, compelling sound cosmos. It’s where East meets West.
Maria-Christina has gathered two outstanding, highly acclaimed players to form the Harper Trio featuring drummer’s-drummer Evan Jenkins and the dynamic saxophonist Josephine Davies (Instrumentalist of The Year, 2019 Parliamentary Jazz Awards). Together they present Passing By their powerful debut recording to be released later in the year.
In Cairo/Grandma’s Coat is the first single taken from the album and is one of 7 original tracks composed specifically for the trio. Featuring shimmering soundscapes, it flirts with the avant-garde and psychedelic sounds to create an exciting, inventive slice of spiritual jazz.
Released on 17 May the piece is influenced by Harpers family roots as is evident in its Eastern sound. “My grandmother was born and raised in Cairo and used to make her own clothes” says Maria-Christina, “She created a beautiful coat made with golden Egyptian thread when she was in Cairo over half a century ago. I am lucky enough to own and cherish that coat”. She adds, “I had no name for this piece until I wore it once at a concert, thus the name; ‘In Cairo /Grandma’s Coat’”.
Maria-Christina Harper studied classical piano and harp in Athens, then at London’s Royal Academy. Disillusioned with the years of rigid, intense practicing of classical technique that left little room for musical self-expression, she found her way to studying Music Therapy with its focus on improvisation, something she describes as “a revelation”. And so began her journey in jazz.
All three members of The Harper Trio are part of the musical exodus to the seaside town of Hastings and is where they met. Both Evan Jenkins and Josephine Davies are well known on the UK scene with enviable jazz credentials. Maria-Christina argues that the glorious free sound they create is, in part, due to a friendship built over cooking, eating, talking and the long, unhurried playing of music together, unhindered by the constraints of the city. “We knew we were onto something special from our very first rehearsal” she says. “It was an exciting and special moment”.
‘Passing By’ was recorded soon after followed by a performance at ‘Jazz In The Round’ at London’s Cockpit – a series of sessions celebrated for being at the forefront of new sounds – establishing the trio not just as an impressive live band, but as an innovative new voice at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz.