It’s been a surprising, interesting journey for South African-born harpist, Jacqueline Kerrod, to finally release her debut solo album, 17 Days in December. Classically trained, Kerrod has worked with the likes of Anohni, Rufus Wainright, and Kanye West, but when the opportunity to play with the ensemble for Anthony Braxton’s Trillium J opera, new avenues began to emerge. Kerrod continued playing with Braxton, including multiple dates in the US and Europe as a duo. All of these experiences eventually led to a month of daily improvisations in December 2020 which produced this album.
Through the gleaming ripples of opener “December 1: Trill to Begin,” Kerrod’s quiet trilling drones buoy the cathartic, resonant strikes that spark at changing intervals. This piece is a result of Kerrod’s work with Braxton, using the trill technique to sustain drones, a direct consequence of his Long Sounds Language. Hints of melancholy and anxiety creep into the chord progressions, but those sudden, loud bursts feel like spells to push out the shadows. Kerrod’s playing is intoxicating, her skill and talent obvious and bolstered by the deep emotional undercurrent woven within.
Kerrod surprises all over 17 Days in December. “December 8: Sugar Up” moves energetically, harnessing a clanging resonance to add harsh textures to the usual soft timbres of the harp. These bursts sound like loud electronics grinding into the strings, but it’s another showcase of her ability to twist this instrument to her will. Following “Sugar Up,” the outstretched unhurried drones turn her electric harp into a doppelganger for lapsteel. Hints of feedback creep in as she bends notes and holds them burning in the air.
Even though experimentation is a common theme throughout 17 Days in December, Kerrod’s classic training is also laced into the aural framework. “December 13: Sunday” is a sweet repose at the end of a long week. A disjointed cadence adds lightness, the easygoing melody drifts like a sweet aroma of early spring blooms across the delicate expanse. On “December 2: Fluttering Alberti,” Kerrod adds subtle effects to an otherwise straightforward improvisation. Those elegant additions become a ghostly echo to remind us of the days and moments left behind. It’s a beguiling, graceful piece of music.
With 17 tracks, 17 Days in December is expansive and, at times, daunting. However, Kerrod is constantly searching for new methods of expression and personal celebration which keeps the album in constant motion. This is a new kind of harp music and has me wondering what Kerrod will do next. 17 Days in December is well worth the effort to explore.