(Ronnie Scott’s. 25 April 2022. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Conventional wisdom has it that there is one – and only one – really significant date in the modern history of Chester-Le-Street, Co. Durham: 5 June 2003. Well, 25 April 2022 could prove to have been another. On both occasions, the main protagonists wore white (*)… There’s more detail about 2003 in the footnote. Last night vocalist Jo Harrop and pianist/arranger Paul Edis, both from Chester-Le-Street, made their main stage debuts at Ronnie Scott’s.
It is strange to think that when we first covered Jo Harrop, it was at Pizza Express in March 2009 (REVIEW HERE), so that’s THIRTEEN years to get round the corner from Dean Street to Frith Street. Her experience, the sixth sense she has now built of how to involve and bring in an audience, particularly at slow tempi with minimal backing is now something truly remarkable. We need it. Audiences post-pandemic seem to take a lot longer to settle down, to stop the chatting, fidgeting, and checking their messages, but to see the alchemy take hold, to watch the battle being won is still a great experience. It’s just a bit frustrating that you now have to wait so much longer for it to happen. (You just have to pay attention and try to remember why you’ve actually bothered to come out to a music venue.)
But happen it did. There was a lovely moment at the end of the sixth song, “Hold On”, when the last song form ended and singer and band just started to extemporize and quietly circle round a four-bar sequence. One could feel the attention in the room build, and all the ambient noise magically subside. Less really can be more.
There were many more excellent moments like that when the freedom given by working with just one other musician –guitarist Jamie McCredie, or bassist Jihad Darwish, or Paul Edis (full band list below). That contrast and the between full arrangements and the pared-down settings were well-worked. And the repertoire of songs is broadening all the time. “Red Mary Janes”, co-written with Hannah Vasanth is delightfully Fats Waller-ish and fun. Tom Waits’s “Rainbow Sleeves” gave a great moment to Peggy Nolan on cello to deliver a beautifully etched countermelody.
Harrop has a strong sense of why the emotional content of the songs is what it is; such conviction and belief have clearly been reinforced by the strange times of the pandemic.
These are good songs too (set-list below). The most recent album, The Heart Wants, is mainly based on a songwriting partnership with Paul Edis. Harrop started to send lyrics over to him, and explained how bowled over she was by the first tune that came back, “If I Knew”. Paul Edis’s arrangement of that song is cunning too. The opening is for string quartet and (I think) based on the Tristan chord, which then reinforces the sense that the song really can give an answer to an unresolved question. I remember being really drawn in to Edis’s song-writing world by the song “Wise Words” when the 606 had it’s first Livestream (REVIEWED). Such impressions were reinforced last night. A special occasion.
Jo Harrop said of Chester-Le-Street ” We’re really trying to put it on the map”… Job done!
(*) 5 June 2003 was the first day of the first test at the Riverside Ground, in the shadow of the 14th-century Lumley Castle, England’s first new Test venue for 101 years. The opening ball was bowled by Heath Streak of Zimbabwe to Marcus Trescothick of England. Streak bowled a loosener outside of off stump which Trescothick left. The next two balls were wides. England won by an innings.
12th May – Hoochie Coochie, Newcastle
14th May – Hexham Jazz Festival, Hexham
17th May – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
19th May – Matt & Phreds Jazz Club, Manchester
21st May – Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham
22nd May – Watford Jazz Junction Festival, London
29th June – Pizza Express (Soho), London
10th July – Swanage Jazz Festival, Swanage
BAND: Jo Harrop, vocals. Paul Edis, MD/piano, Jamie McCredie, guitar. Jihad Darwish, bass. Pete Adam Hill, drums. Andy Davies, trumpet. Amika String Quartet: Laura Senior, Lucy McKay, Violins, Lucy Nolan, Viola, Peggy Nolan, cello.
The Heart Wants
I Think You’d Better Go
What A Little Moonlight Can Do
All Too Soon
If I Knew
Red Mary Janes
If Ever I Would Leave You
Weather the Storm
(set list ends)
Categories: Live review
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