Jo Harrop Quartet Featuring Alex Garnett
(606 Club Livestream. 20 June 2020. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
First and foremost hats off, raise a glass to Steve Rubie. In normal times he ensures that the 606 is a physical hub for the community of jazz musicians, and has kept the venue thriving in its two locations since 1976. And since lockdown he has done a mass of things behind the scenes to try to ensure the survival of the venue. A few weeks ago he launched the 606’s online portal (FEATURE), and last night he was responsible for the club’s first streamed gig. To be honest. those hats and that glass don’t feel enough. Give him a drumroll (it will have to be virtual – there were no drums last night) and at least an OBE.
The normal pre-gig buzz last night was replaced by watching a holding screen, and listening to recorded music. What a poignant choice: “Smile” sung by Elliott Cole from Gary Alesbrook’s album Jazz in Movies. “When there are clouds in the sky. You’ll get by.” Let’s hope so.
And then the gig. Jo Harrop did the whole thing with sincerity, warmth, joy and grace. She talked about how much she’d looked forward to the moment of being on the stand at the 606 with a mix of excitement and trepidation: “ None of us has played for 3-4 months. We miss your applause and your warmth please come back.” She had some great stories of home educating her children “Fractions…algebra… it all comes flooding back.” And aerobics routines too of which the greatest of her achievements was apparently an “11-minute plank.”
We first reviewed Jo Harrop back in LJN’s early days HERE. She still has the joy and pride in her Co. Durham background, and has fun explaining how “Cole Porter” is pronounced in the North-East of England. But above all her assuredness as singer and performer and in taking on this unusual context and making it work were remarkable.
Jo Harrop has a fine new album of smouldering ballads in a duo with guitarist Jamie McCredie, from which she did the opening track last night: “My Foolish Heart,” complete with verse. This gig showed the range and variety she has to go way beyond that.
The first song to be livestreamed from the 606’s stage was “Tenderly” (in 3 for those who care about such things) and the first instrumental solo was from Alex Garnett. His fluency and persuasiveness as soloist and his ability to be the perfect foil for singers were all there from the first to the last. It reminded me of that fine Ronnie Scotts’ All Stars album Jazz Classics from 2012 he did with Natalie Williams. He was just ‘there’ impeccably throughout the evening, finishing off with screaming altissimo on the final blues, “Fine and Mellow.”
There were other highlights. I enjoyed a final coda to “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” where Harrop’s repeated and musical “Ooh’s” started to sound like a train whistle. And if one was looking for an emotional heart to the gig, the Paul Edis song “Wise Words” with what Jo Harrop described as his “healing lyrics” was truly touching.
And, as one always knows one can expect at a London club like the 606, it was a band without a weak link, It was a pleasure to hear Ross Stanley again. He has (among other things) that wonderful ability to turn a new page in a solo, to open a new vista, wipe the slate clean, be somewhere new. I love that. And Adam King on bass can go both sparingly slow and exhilaratingly fast, and one can hear he has a great sound – even with the limitations of listening on the speaker of a laptop.
A new era is launched. It has taken astonishing diligence and devotion to get to this point. There is still a long way to go. The online memberships are cheap as are the livestreams. This club needs support.
Tenderly ( Gross/ Lawrence)
What a little moonlight can do Harry M. Woods
Early Autumn (Burns/Herman/Mercer )
On the Street Where You Live
Don’t Be That Way (Goodman / Sampson)
Once I Loved (O Amor en Paz) (Jobim/ Gilbert)
?? (Nat King Cole)
All of You ( Cole Porter)
My Foolish Heart (Young/ Washington)
I Love Being Here with You (Peggy Lee)
Wise Words (Paul Edis)
Fine and Mellow (Billie Holiday)