Album Review of
17 Days in December

Written by Joe Ross
January 21, 2022 - 1:18am EST
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Open-minded to new experiential approaches on the harp, South African-born Jacqueline Kerrod, now based in New York City, has played with orchestras, chamber groups, contemporary  ensembles, and pop superstars. Most recently, she’s toured internationally with composer and sax innovator Anthony Braxton, both as a duo and as part of his ZIM music ensemble. Kerrod was a founding member and co-songwriter of the genre-bending duo Addi & Jacq.

Recorded between December 1-30, 2020, Kerrod’s latest musical adventure captures 17 solo harp improvisations born out of a need to turn inward, discover and develop the artist within. Tracks like “Trill to Begin,” “Gentle Jangle,” “Glassy Fingers” and “Blips ‘n Blops” capture spacey impressionistic atmospherics like only a jazz harpist can create. Playing acoustic and electric instruments, we hear a combination of both angelic sounds along with more unconventional, avant-garde sounds of dissonance resulting from deployment of delay, whammy, distortion and overdrive pedals on her electric harp.

Harpists typically focus on the art of playing cleanly, and on 17 Days in December we do hear trills, tremolos, bisbigliandi (rapid and soft tremolos), glissandi (slides across the strings) and etouffee (muffled strings). Interestingly, there’s also the intentional vibrating string or pedal buzz on occasion. On an experimental project, it’s all good and just part of the artist’s musical expressivity and extemporal phrasing.   

Most pieces span from two to four minutes. Kerrod employs various techniques of plucking, brushing and muting strings to create various feelings and moods. At nearly eight minutes, “Glassy Fingers” is downright surreal and includes use of a small glass bowl. A screwdriver-like harp tool was used on “Screwed,” a viola bow colors “Rust on Bow,” and many tracks introduce delay, whammy, distortion and overdrive pedals on her electric harp.

I wasn’t too fond of the angst in “Sugar Up,” “Broken: In 3” or sonic modulations in “Chatterbox” (sounding akin to a defective cassette tape), but I do certainly appreciate Kerrod’s spirit, resolve and wit. There aren’t many master musicians who purposely release an album with a string or two totally out of whack as they are on “Broken: In 3.” It did make me grin. Perhaps that was her goal with this track. “Fluttering Alberti” was pleasurable, but “Can-Can” created stress. It reinforces that music can be therapeutic.     

On another hand, the electronica embellishing “Glare,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Strummed II” acknowledges that mastery of harp may be better measured by self-control, restraint and what’s held back. Along with the mixing and additional sound production by Weston Olencki on five tracks, including the nine-minute odyssey “Rust on Bow,” it’s interesting to hear how harpist Kerrod imbues living, breathing character to each improvisation. “Strummed I” and “Screwed” are not your typical harp etudes, but rather give this album flourishes of virtuosity with unique, eclectic sounds (or rather, soundscapes) of varied colors, nuances, dynamic contrasts and timbres. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)