The Heart Wants | Jo Harrop (Oct 2021)

Born in Durham, England, Jo Harrop started out as a session singer working with a host of artists including Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, Gloria Gaynor and Enrique Iglesias. After moving to London, she quickly established herself as one of the most distinctive voices in British jazz.

“When I was a teenager, my dad took me to see Tony Bennett live in Newcastle. I was so moved and inspired that I realized that I needed to sing. Being able to reach people with my music in the same way is my ultimate goal. The loss of loved ones in recent years has opened my heart and given me more reason to sing and write than ever before, so I felt the time was right to record my first album of original songs,” says Harrop.

“The Heart Wants” is her second album, following “Weathering the Storm” (2020), along with guitarist Jamie McCredie, where she performed songs by others. In this second work, seven of the thirteen songs are hers, in collaboration with other colleagues. The production part was carried out by McCredie and Hannah Vasanth. 21 musicians took part in the recording, and among them I would highlight Christian McBride, Tony Kofi, Jason Rebello, Paul Edis and Jamie McCredie.

On the cover of the album, Harrop is seen surrounded by books (Haruki Murakami, Leonard Cohen…) and writing, in a clear allusion to the compositional work she has done in this work, which she has recorded live in one or two takes, often at late-night post-concert sessions, at McCredie’s studio in London.

The album couldn’t start better – “The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants” is a bluesy drag with Vasanth on piano and McBride backing up Harrop. Davis’s trumpet makes the hair on one’s neck stand up and tingle, immersing us to the bone. Harrop with her warm voice, suffused with a veneer of toughness, thrills us as well.

Harrop and McBride delight us with a duet on Duke Ellington/Carl Sigman’s “All Too Soon.” A vocal and instrumental marvel. It couldn’t be better.

“Everything’s Changing” departs the world of jazz and introduces us to a world of friendly melodies pleasant to listen to, with Harrop’s delicate voice and perfect phrasing in the forefront.

“I Think You’d Better Go” continues in that vein, this time as a duet with McCredie on guitar. A beautiful ballad with Harrop transmitting emotions relentlessly. And McCredie truly makes a virtue of simplicity.

Paul Edis signs “Wise Words”, a lyrical song with folk touches, to which the string section adds depth. He also co-writes “What If” and “If I Knew” with Harrop. Harrop sent the lyrics of the latter to Edis in the middle of the pandemic and he wrote the music and gave rise to this work in 24 hours.

With “Red Mary Janes & A Brand New Hat” we dive into a club atmosphere with Jason Rebello on piano and Jihad Darwish on double bass. Once again the blues returns to the lips of Harrop who embroiders it. Mischief and sensuality. One of the best songs on the album.

“Hold On” is a mixture of folk, soul, jazz, pop, country and I don’t know how many other things where McCredie’s guitar and Harrop’s moving interpretation stand out.

“Life Inside” is another beautiful song in the style of the previous one, which features the vocal collaboration with Marcus Bonfanti. Again McCredie accompanies with the guitar in a discreet but essential way. Sensitive and warm Harrop, transmitting emotions.

“Rainbow Sleeves” is a Rickie Lee Jones song that was written by her ex-lover – Tom Waits (one of Harrop’s musical passions). Perfect McCredie and Sarah Bowler on cello rounding out the theme.

“If Ever I Would Leave You”, written by Lerner and Lowe for the musical “Camelot”. A duet with Jason Rebello on piano. Again, Harrop shows her interpretive quality and how well she performs in duets.

“Weather The Storm” appears as a bonus track on the CD. Harrop is accompanied by a 21-voice choir, including China Moses, Fiona Ross, Natalie Williams, Robin Phillips and Simone Craddock.

As Joe Harrop puts it: “all of these songs communicate the universal aspects of human emotion in the face of change, whether it’s love or loss, happiness or sorrow. Each song is a true story about the dreams and wishes, the doubts and regrets, the trials and tribulations of the human heart.”

Beautiful, intimate, exciting album, with a seductive Harrop and some fantastic musicians.

You can listen or buy the album via Bandcamp.

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