Once a session singer for the likes of Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart and Gloria Gaynor, Jo Harrop’s dusky, gorgeously sensual voice found its way to a jazzier destiny a few years ago when the versatile British singer/songwriter caught the attention of Mayank Patel, owner of London’s Hampstead Jazz Club and Lateralize Records.
The Heart Wants, Harrop’s second album on the label, is a masterwork in soulful blues inflected jazz, featuring the subtle and intimate but also intensely emotional fruits of her long latent songwriting prowess that blossomed during the unexpected moments of stillness during the pandemic. Under the production expertise of longtime collaborators, guitarist Jamie McCredie and pianist/Rhodes player Hannah Vassanth, the 13 track (12 main plus a bonus) features a huge ensemble, with over 20 credited musicians (including Christian McBride on three tracks) and a swelling 21 piece choir adding rousing energy to the inspirational gospel fired closer “Weather the Storm.”
Yet the real power of the album comes from the tender pin drop intimacy Harrop shares on the stripped down arrangements of numbers like “Wise Words,” the bluesy, trumpet laced and ultimately uplifting reflection “Everything’s Changing, the wistful, longing “What If” and the regret-filled, chamber music flavored “If I Knew” (the first song she and pianist Paul Edis wrote for the project).
Along the way, Harrop creates fascinating mood swing from her gentle, bittersweet vocal-guitar duet with McCredie on “I Think You Better Go” to a sassy, seductive piano driven romp about the perfect wardrobe for the perfect night on the town (“Red Mary Janes & A Brand New Hat”). First released in Fall 2021 in Europe to rave reviews, The Heart Wants is an exquisite work that marks the ongoing emergence of a major multi-talented force in vocal jazz.