It was a great time to catch Jo Harrop and Paul Edis and talk to them about their favourite albums, each picking five a piece.
Jo Harrop has over the last few years released a steady stream of albums that serve to show that she is one of the most outstanding vocalists on the UK music scene. From her duet album with guitarist Jamie McCreadie, Weathering The Storm, the pair created a masterpiece of understatement and with The Heart Wants, Jo took the plunge releasing an recording of her own original songs.
In a purple patch where the music is just exquisitely crafted, Jo Harrop has teamed up with pianist Paul Edis to produce When Winter Turns To Spring on Lateralize Records.
With the physical release of this stunning new album scheduled for this month, it was a great time to catch the pair and talk to them about their favourite albums, each picking five a piece.
About her favourite albums Jo says…
Bill Evans & Tony Bennett – Together
The perfect duets album, beautiful song choices and exquisite play between Evans and Bennett as they are so sympathetic to each other’s interpretation of the songs. A huge inspiration to me for recording and playing duets.
Aretha Franklin – Sweet & Bitter Love
Soulful, Bluesy, Aretha at her best, when she really tells a story and you can feel her, as though she is living those emotions. I play this on repeat.
Tony Bennett Live at Carnegie Hall
A perfect lesson on how to put a live set together. Great song choices and perfect tempos, swinging and cool and the ballads so clear and pure. Tony Bennett at his peak.
Sarah Vaughan & Clifford Brown
A lesson in how to swing and work the songs to be your very own! I love this joyous collaboration between Vaughan and Brown.
Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin
Achingly beautiful and tender – Holidays last album she recorded, and you hear all the cracks, and the careworn vocal reflects her soul, her life is summed up right here in this album…
And in choosing his selection, Paul says…
Oscar Peterson – Night Train
There’s so much joy and energy in Peterson’s playing, and the trio swings like no other. Peterson’s technique is quite frankly astonishing, and his playing is instantly recognisable. I always get the impression from interviews I’ve seen; he was actually a very modest person despite his outrageous talent.
I could have listed various other Peterson Trio albums here, but this one in particular was a huge influence on me when I was about 18. I transcribed some of the tracks from this album and regularly try to emulate the bluesy, swinging joy of Peterson’s playing.
Bill Evans Trio – Portrait in Jazz
This album was an eye opener for me, in both the way that the piano can be played, but also in the way that the piano, bass and drums in a piano trio can interact. There’s such a fluidity between the trio members. I transcribed Evan’s solo on Autumn Leaves and analysed it when I was a student.
There is so much logic in his playing, in the way he deals with harmony, but also in his melodic lines. He had an amazing ability to take motifs on a journey through any musical sequence, and above all, Evans makes the piano sing.
Thelonious Monk – Monks Dream
The first time I heard this album, I didn’t like it. In fact, I think this can be a common reaction to Monk’s playing, a bit like trying beer for the first time. With some perseverance (in both the beer and with listening to Monk) I started to realise just how much was going on in Monk’s approach to improvisation and composition. He is a genius. There is absolutely no one like Monk, and his influence on Jazz is so significant.
He was there in the early days of Bebop alongside Parker and Gillespie, as well as having an amazing career leading his own quartets and mentoring Bud Powell, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins (as well as many other notable musicians). The complete conviction in his playing is something I am always trying to emulate as a composer and performer.
Bill Evans & Tony Bennett – The Bill Evans/Tony Bennett Album
The thing I noticed when I first heard this album was just how beautiful it sounded. The way Evans accompanies, and the complete ease with which he and Bennett seem to perform together. Nothing is missing, and the arrangements and interpretation of classic repertoire is so inventive. Bennett’s range as a vocalist in both a technical and emotional sense is quite something. He really swings, but he takes you on a journey with every word he sings.
Duke Ellington – Black Brown and Beige
This was one of the first CDs I bought. I had no idea what Ellington’s music sounded like when I bought this, but it made such an impression. Ellington is another figure who was central to Jazz in the early days as well as to its continuing evolution. He was consistently creative throughout his entire career, and he had the tenacity and stamina to lead his own big band – which given the amount of logistics, and with having to manage all the immense talents (and egos) involved – is a notable achievement in itself.
He pioneered the approach of writing music based around the specific musicians in the band. This is quite a remarkable achievement and informs the way I think in writing many of my own compositions. The music on this album is an example of one
of his many extended suites for his Orchestra and it features the incredible vocals of Mahalia Jackson. The version she sings of ‘Come Sunday’ from this album is so incredibly moving!
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue
This album is so ubiquitous now that it’s easy to forget how radical it was when it was released. Davis managed to gather an amazing team of musicians around him and essentially created a new subgenre within jazz. He changed the direction of the music, and he managed to do this so many times throughout his career.
There are two specific moments on this album that really stick out to me more than any others, the introduction to ‘Blue in Green’ from Bill Evans, and the piano solo from Wynton Kelly on ‘Freddie Freeloader’. Both are completely different aesthetics, but so beautiful to hear! Evans playing is so full of melancholy and heartache, where Kelly’s eloquent bluesy touch is so full of joy and wit.