To infiltrate the upper echelon of the Billboard album charts with an ancient instrument while cross-pollinating musical genres certainly has taken the imaginative vision and inspired creativity of a trailblazing entrepreneur. On September 26, urban-jazz harpist Mariea Antoinette will receive a Phenomenal Women in Entrepreneurship Award from the National Council of Negro Women, the 49th annual community event in San Diego, California at which she will perform. Tied to the honor, an enhanced version of her sophomore album, “Straight from the Harp: Special Edition,” will be released September 25 by MAH Productions featuring two bonus tracks and an entirely new cover. One of the new cuts, “Walk the Walk,” a uniquely sprawling hybrid of ethereal harp harmonies and impassioned soloing, EDM-hip hop beats, gauzy rock guitar and dramatic violin underscoring from Karen Briggs, will be serviced to radio as a single ahead of the bolstered collection’s issuance.
The Allan Phillips-produced disc that peaked in the Billboard smooth jazz albums Top 5, “Straight from the Harp,” connects with a balanced set list of soul-infused originals and R&B classics. Showcasing Antoinette’s gorgeous, graceful and sensual harp theatrics amidst downhome funk grooves, ebullient pop harmonies and spacious jazz improvisations, the record was purposely crafted to fulfill the artist’s mission to smash limiting preconceptions, banish borders and offer adventurous new possibilities for her celestial stringed instrument.
“The concept of ‘Straight from the Harp’ is to show people that the harp is not a quiet, dreamy, boring instrument, but that it can be funky like you’ve never heard it before. I wanted to take it to a new dimension, and I knew that (producer) Allan (Phillips) would bring an exciting palette of rhythmic possibilities to the table,” said Antoinette. “The CD has launched an exciting new phase in my career, but I’ve had this in my spirit a long time. I loved playing beautiful classical music, but my heart was telling me I’ve also got to do something different. I wanted to play the music that I grew up with. I wanted to make the harp a funky and sexy instrument. For those who have yet to discover ‘Straight from the Harp,’ I hope new listeners will open their ears and their minds to the ‘Special Edition.’”
Tapping Phillips, an Emmy-winning, two-time Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist from Venezuela with an adventurous flair for surrounding lush melodies and percussive rhythms with textured world music trappings, was a deliberate choice for Antoinette. He penned four cuts for the genre-blurring session, including a pair of tunes with emerging saxophonist Reggie Codrington, while Antoinette composed a couple of stunning instrumental interludes.
The San Diego-based Antoinette (yes, Mariea Antoinette is the name that appears on her birth certificate) debuted with “Sexy Paradise” (2003) produced by fellow San Diegan Carl Evans Jr. of the jazz fusion outfit Fattburger. Her striking appearance and artfully elegant sound and technique has led to high-profile gigs around the world such as performing for President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, backing Ne-Yo at the BET Awards and playing Grammy soirees for Vanity Fair magazine and Mary J. Blige and Jamie Foxx. Antoinette and Briggs have been collaborating since 2007 in the all-female ensemble Jazz in Pink. Their organic synchronicity forged through years of live shows at premier jazz festivals is clearly in evidence on “Walk the Walk.”
Songs contained on “Straight from the Harp: Special Edition” are:
“Give Me Your Love”
“A Single Dance”
“Spend Some Time (With You)”
“I’m Gonna Love You (Just A Little More Baby)”
“Waiting In Vain”
“Straight from the Harp”
“Walk the Walk”