Robert Maxwell

Robert Maxwell's career is a textbook example of a pop artist both adding to the world of music and changing the way people consider an unusual instrument. While his credentials (Juilliard scholarship, National Symphony at age seventeen) are as impressive at it gets, his performances on broadcast media and studio recordings deservedly earned him many fans. He was born to a musical family in New York City, and his two elder brothers eventually played harp professionally.

As is often the case, military service led Maxwell out of the classical field, where harp was treated as a cherubic, accent instrument. Following Coast Guard experience, Maxwell went on to conquer television, radio, and the movies, notably replacing Frank Sinatra one summer on CBS. While he continued his jazz and classical performances, his pop records endure as the "best of breed."

Maxwell's music is distinguished by two things beyond extraordinary training and capability. One is the clever use of gimmicks, including sound effects and overdubbing (multi-tracking). The normal adjectives --"gratuitous," "pretentious," "inappropriate"-- do not apply; "fun" and "artful" do. And he was not above playing a harp rigged with electric lights.

Maxwell's arrangements clearly reflect a conscious effort to revamp the tried-and-true in a fresh way, usually uptempo. He composed such major standards as "Ebb Tide," "Shangri-La" (Jackie Gleason TV show), and "Song of the Nairobi Trio" (used on Ernie Kovacs' TV show and which spawned the legendary Fortune Tellers LP). One notable project as sideman was playing on Cal Tjader's Several Shades of Jade.

Buying: All of the pre-Command stereo albums, plus several of the mono albums, are essential. Spectacular Harps has the ultimate example of overdubbed harp ("Caravan"), and "September in the Rain" on A Song for All Seasons is fantastic.

Robert Maxwell LPs

5Harpist's Holiday 10"; Columbia CL-6104 (on 12" as Harmony 7007)
6The Harp in Hi-Fi; Mercury MG-20138
3Harp Magic; MGM E-3171
3The Lamp is Low; MGM E-3308
4HI-FI Harp; MGM E-3360
5Zing! Went the Strings of My Harp; MGM E-3486
6Music to Make You Starry-Eyed; MGM E-3571
7Red Hot Harp; MGM E-3678
6Spectacular Harps; MGM SE-3836
8Shangri-La; Decca DL-74421 (Bewitched; same no.)
7Peg O' My Harp; Decca DL-74563
7A Song for All Seasons; Decca DL-74609
7Let's Get Away from it All; Decca DL-74723
4Robert Maxwell Anytime!; ABC/Command RS-913-SD
6Harpistry in Rhythm; ABC/Command RD-932-S; 1972
8The Fortune Tellers: Song of the Nairobi Trio; Kapp Medallion MS-7534; 1962
Alan Dean & Robert Maxwell: Heart & Soul--the Music of Hoagy Carmichael; MGM E-3461; 1956

The Fortune Tellers 45s

7The Fortune Tellers: Song of the Nairobi Trio/Camel Train; Music Makers 105 (remade for the LP)

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