S2. EP.6 Recasting Old Gems in a New Light: Pacific Harp Project
November 17, 2021
Harpist Megan Bledsoe Ward joins us to chat about how she stumbled into improvisation as a harpist and how her early experiences resulted in the genre-weaving collaboration that Pacific Harp Project has become. We talk about her process for funding and then recording her first album, and how her ensemble approaches marketing. And we discuss how much there is to learn about a work by recasting it in new and interesting ways.
Praised for their “engaging jazz...with scintillating plays of light and subtle colors” by DownBeat Magazine, Pacific Harp Project’s emergence on the jazz scene has surprised listeners with a unique sonic experience. By incorporating classical harp music into the realms of jazz, pop, and fusion, this groundbreaking group “leads the listener to the conclusion: The harp has been unchained.” (AllAboutJazz.com)
Pacific Harp Project launched in 2014 and released their self-titled debut album in December, 2015 with a sold-out concert. The album won the 2016 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Instrumental Album of the Year, and received positive reviews from DownBeat Magazine, Jazz Weekly, CD Hotlist, AllAboutJazz.com, The Aquarian Weekly, TheJazzPage.com, Midwest Record, LA Jazz Scene, Honolulu Star Advertiser, and ASX.com. Pacific Harp Project’s 2017 recording of “Loops” by Noel Okimoto was nominated for a RoundGlass International Music Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Single, and the group’s second album, “Play,” was released in 2019 to critical acclaim.
Pacific Harp Project formed when harpist Megan Bledsoe Ward teamed up with illustrious jazz
musicians Noel Okimoto (vibraphone), Todd Yukumoto (saxophone), Jon Hawes (bass), and Allan Ward (drums). Bledsoe Ward approaches jazz harp from a new perspective, leaning on her experience in classical performing, composing, and arranging. CD Hotlist notes: “Megan Bledsoe Ward has a solid grasp of the jazz idiom—she’s not a dabbler or dilettante...When she ventures into the very dangerous territory of arranging classical pieces in a jazz style, she comes out the other side not just unscathed but triumphant.” Combined with original compositions by Bledsoe Ward and Noel Okimoto, the result is an innovative collaboration in which the musicians delight in working together and captivating audiences at each performance.
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