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Jo Harrop knows what the heart wants

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    Posted: 13 Mar 2022 at 6:44pm

JO HARROP is a British singer and songwriter who has been garnering a lot of attention for her smoky, intimate voice and heartfelt, intelligent lyrics. She released her second album, THE HEART WANTS, last year in Europe to rave reviews, and is now releasing the CD for the US audience on April 25, 2022, accompanied by a vinyl release in both Europe and the US. Jazz in Europe says, “THE HEART WANTS is a classic example of pure creativity, singularity, perfect vocals and least, but not last, a very important collaborative album.”
THE HEART WANTS is a wonderful introduction for North American audiences to a singer/songwriter who is bound to become a shining star in the jazz firmament. Written and recorded over the last year when the world came to a sudden standstill in the wake of the pandemic, THE HEART WANTS is about love and life, about losing and then finding oneself in the silence after the applause has faded away.
Harrop was born and raised in a small town in Northeast England. Her parents felt that music was not a proper career, so she had to learn music by ear, listening to the likes of Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin. The turning point in her life came when her father took her to see Tony Bennett when she was just a teenager. Harrop relates, “I was so moved and inspired, I realized that I needed to sing. I wanted to be able to touch people with my music in the same way.”
Harrop chased her dream and moved to London where she started frequenting jam sessions and meeting musicians. It did not take long to establish herself as one of the most unmistakable voices on the British jazz scene. She got her professional start when an agency hired her to work as a session singer for iconic British and American pop artists, including Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, and Gloria Gaynor.
It was during her session work that she met pianist HANNAH VASANTH, who became her close friend and collaborator. Playing jazz clubs around London, Harrop caught the attention of Mayank Patel, the owner of Hampstead Jazz Club and Lateralize Records. Patel says, “One of the advantages of owning a jazz club is coming across talented artists. When I first heard Jo sing, I recognized her potential immediately. She was just at the beginning of her career, and all she needed was a guiding hand to get her to where she is today. Everyone who sees Jo perform becomes her fan.” Patel brought her into the Lateralize family as her manager and record label, releasing Weathering the Storm (2020), a duo project featuring guitarist JAMIE McCREDIE.
Harrop has been writing lyrics for years, but the pandemic shutdown gave her the time and mental space to focus on her songwriting. “In an unexpected moment of stillness, when the world came to a sudden stop and confusion, and frustration and fear seemed to sweep across the earth, I finally began to work on the album that I had longed to make for many years,” Harrop explains. “Ideas that I had talked over with Hannah and Jamie began to unfold, and emotions that I’d always pushed aside began to spill onto the page.”
 Harrop sent her first lyrics to PAUL EDIS, a highly regarded composer and arranger as well as a Lateralize recording artist. Those lyrics resulted in “If I Knew,” the first song written for the album. Harrop says, “That song became the key that unlocked the door to creating this album.”
Hannah Vasanth plays piano on a couple of songs and produced several of the tracks on the album. Paul Edis also plays piano several of the tracks, and Jamie McCredie plays guitar and produced the other tracks. THE HEART WANTS also includes a large cast of top British musicians, such as pianist JASON REBELLO, who has won most of the major jazz awards in England, and TROY MILLER, who was in Amy Winehouse’s band for five years and has also worked with Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, George Benson, and Gregory Porter, to name a few. Also featured on the album is bass player CHRISTIAN McBRIDE, who came on to the project through a circuitous route of connections but was happy to participate after hearing Harrop sing.
THE HEART WANTS comprises mostly original songs co-written by Harrop, including the title tune “The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants,” which was inspired by a conversation after a gig with Vasanth over a little too much red wine. The song is about being so much in love that there’s no way out. Harrop wrote “Everything’s Changing” in the middle of the pandemic when people were separated from friends and loved ones. The lyric is a message of hope about better days ahead. “I Think You’d Better Go” is a bittersweet story set in a bar on a rainy day. It is about the temptation and desire of two people who can’t let their guard down in case things go too far. “Red Mary Janes & A Brand New Hat” is a tongue-in-cheek, quirky, swinging song about a girl who just wants to go out and sing dressed up in red Mary Jane shoes and a new hat.
“Hold On” is about a love that can never happen because fate stands in the way. “Life Inside” was begun but not completed by George Glew. Harrop put the finishing touches on the song, which deals with mental health and getting out of the dark places we sometimes find ourselves in. “What If” is a song about longing for love. It is a wish for another space and time where love can exist. “If I Knew” is about regret. It is about wishing you had more time to spend with someone who is no longer in your life. “Weather The Storm” features 21 other singers from around the world in the final choruses. The song is about how love can heal damaged relationships, whether they are couples, friends, or family.
Edis composed and wrote the lyrics for “Wise Words.” The song is about believing in yourself. Harrop says, “From the moment I heard this song, I wanted to record it. I feel like it was written just for me because I savor every word that Paul wrote.” Harrop also covers Tom Waits’ “Rainbow Sleeves” plus standards “If Ever I Would Leave You” by Lerner & Loewe and Duke Ellington’s “All Too Soon,” which Harrop performs as a tasty duet with McBride.
Jo Harrop is a soulful singer. Her smoky, sultry voice draws you in with its intimacy. Her songs often tell stories of longing and regret, but they are never truly rueful. Her voice conveys the bittersweetness and hope that is always there, right below the surface. Although this is just her second album, with the stellar arrangements by Vasanth and McCredie and backing by a top-notch band, Harrop sounds as if she’s already lived a thousand lifetimes.
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